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Péron, J.-Y. 1990. Tuberous-rooted chervil: A new root vegetable for temperate climates. p. 422-423. In: J. Janick and J.E. Simon (eds.), Advances in new crops. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

Tuberous-rooted Chervil: A New Root Vegetable for Temperate Climates*

Jean-Yves Péron

  6. Table 1
  7. Fig. 1
  8. Fig. 2


Tuberous-rooted chervil (Chaerophyllum bulbosum L.) belongs to the Apiaceae, a family in which food plants are of special interest because of their high level of fiber and aromatic substances (Péron, 1989). Since its introduction in France in 1846, C. bulbosum has not undergone any substantial development with cultivation until 1985, and is now produced in three or four market gardens.

Tuberous-rooted chervil a wild biennial native to Eastern Europe, is found within Eastern France (Bois, 1927). The tuberous root is edible and is similar to carrot (Davanture type). Leaves resemble those of carrots but the rosette is limited to 3-5 flattened leaves. The seeds (300-350 per gram) are light or dark brown, 3-6 mm long and 1-1.5 mm wide.


The root is edible only at the end of fall when root reserves have under gone a biochemical change favored by cold temperature (Table 1). The nutritional composition of the plant has been analyzed by Imbault et al. (1985). The edible root has a high level of dry matter (about 40% of fresh weight); carbohydrates makeup 45% of dry matter consisting of sucrose (25%); starch (14%) and reducing sugars (1.0%).

Because of its biochemical composition and of its specific chestnut-like flavor, tuberous-rooted chervil is considered as a "gourmet" vegetable. Tuberous-rooted chervil has to be boiled about 10-12 minutes and, after peeling, could be served with fish or meat either as a whole root or pureed.


Tuberous-rooted chervil is sown in November or in February after stratification and is harvested in July. The average yield is 10 metric tons per hectare in market gardens using a traditional cultivar.

Seeds do not germinate under normal conditions because of embryo dormancy (Augé et al. 1989). Dormancy can be removed by subjecting the seed to humid and cold temperatures, e.g. 4°C during 10 weeks (Fig. 1). Thus, seeds are sown at the beginning of winter.

Root storage at low temperature (6-8°C) increases the speed of starch conversion in the root and offer increased protection from fungus infection.

Genetic variability has been studied for 6 years and a breeding program is underway to improve root morphology and to increase yield (Fig. 2). Wild plants have been collected and are under evaluation. Homogeneous selfed (S2 and S3) lines have been obtained and hybrids between several lines are being developed (Péron 1989).


Commercial development of tuberous-rooted chervil was undertaken in 1987 in the North of France, especially in the Loire Valley where sandy soils are favorable for its cultivation. A new cultivar 'Altan', obtained by mass selection, has been commercialized by the seed company, Royal Sluis-France. Studies carried out over the last four years, indicate that tuberous-rooted chervil should be cultivated similar to early carrot and probably in plastic tunnels.


*Program of tuberous-rooted chervil has been supported financially by the French Ministry of Agriculture. The author is grateful of technical assistance of Andrée Le Boulch in breeding studies.
Table 1. Carbohydrate development in the root of Chaerophyllum bulbosum during storage.

Distribution of carbohydrate (% of total)
Storage temperature (analysis date) Total carbohydratez (mg/g dry wt) Reducing sugars Non-reducing sugars Starch
Initial (Nov. 20, 1984) 435 2.3 64.9 32.8
Ambient (Jan. 11, 1985) 497 5.5 72.4 20.1
4°C (Jan. 20, 1985) 508 9.1 78.7 12.2
zRoot weight class = 15-30 g.

Fig. 1. Germination of Chaerophyllum bulbosum seeds after stratification at 4°C.

Fig. 2. Expression and exploitation of generic variability on the root of Chaerophyllum bulbosum cultivated under plastic tunnel. (a) Wild population. (b) 'Altan' a cultivar obtained by mass selection from a population cultivated in France. (c) Genotype 11 (S2), bulbous root. (d) Genotype 14 (S2), half-long root.

Last update September 4, 1997 by aw