Wild Chervil, Jernhatten, Djursland
Wild chervil or cow parsley is native to Europe, western Asia and north west Africa. It is related to parsley, carrot, hemlock and hogweed. It grows in sunny or semi-shaded locations in meadows and at the hedges of hedgerows and woodland. Roadsides are lightened up with wild chervil in May-June.
The plant is attractive to a huge number of insect species. In the old days it was known that a swarm of bees was easier to shoo into the beehive if it was rubbed in wild chervil. It was and is still used in the process of dyeing wool and linen. The flowers give a light yellow and green dye. Around 1800 they used the dried umbels cooked in oil in order to dye yellow, while leaves and stems gave a green tone.
Warning: Cow parsley can be mistaken for the similar looking Poison Hemlock (Giftig skarntyde) and Fool's Parsley (Hundepersille).
Folklore and habits in Denmark:
The boys used to cut flutes of the hollow stems of wild chervil. In 1666 wild chervil was used in cakes which was said to be very delicious. The plant was used to support the first shots of hop in order to protect it from the wind. The wild chervil was removed on June 24th in Midsummer and the hop was equipped with the traditional long poles. Garlands made of wild chervil and elm leaves were decorations in Midsummer feasts.
In the 1300s wild chervil was crushed and mixed in wine as a compress upon cancerous ulcer, a drink was taken with wine and honey for pains in the side. In he beginning of the 1400s a juice mixed with vinegar was used to drive out roundworms, in 1546 the physician Henrik Smid recommended young chervil cooked with cabbage for the stomach and the head. The plant was in a wine dekokt which was good for headache. In 1648 Simon Paulli advised to eat a thin cabbage soup for difficulty in breathing. A chervil pie was good for the stomach and gave a sweet sleep.
And it was said that to drink chervil water in the morning strengthened the memory !
photo Jernhatten, Djursland 2008: grethe bachmann