Thyme is an aromatic perennial evergreen herb that belongs to the mint family. It was first grown in the Mediterranean region where it was historically used both for culinary and for medicinal purposes.
Today, you can find thyme on grocery store shelves and in many home herb gardens.
If you’re wondering how you can grow this versatile herb at home, then you’ve come to the right place! Today, we’ll be going through everything you need to know about cultivating this herb right in your very own garden.
Let’s get started!
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What is Thyme?
Thyme, also called Thymus vulgaris, is a low-growing herb known for its fragrant leaves and thin woody stems. They also have tiny pink, lavender, or white flowers that bloom in the summer.
It has a pronounced herbal flavor that features woody, grassy, and floral notes akin to herbs like rosemary and lavender. Some varieties, such as lemon thyme, have notes of lemon in their flavor profile.
Because of its antiseptic and preservative properties, it has a long history of being used as a medicine, a preservative for meat, and for perfumery. As a culinary herb, it is often added to blends like:
Herbes de Provence: an aromatic mix of dried herbs. Traditionally it would include thyme, basil, rosemary, tarragon, savory, marjoram, oregano, and bay leaf.
Bouquet garni: is a mix of herbs generally used to flavor dishes such as stocks and casseroles as well as soups and sauces. Traditionally it would include parsley leaves (or stalks which are also very flavorful), thyme, and bay leaf.
There are about 350 species of thyme each teeming with flavor and aroma. Some of the most common types you can plant at home include:
- Golden lemon thyme: A type of thyme with a true lemon scent and a minty quality. It is characterized by golden variegated leaves. It can add a wonderful fragrance to any outdoor or indoor herb garden.
- Caraway thyme: A type of thyme with pale pink flowers and the scent of caraway.
- Woolly thyme: A soft and flat spreading thyme that can be used for ornamental purposes.
- Creeping thyme: A low growing type of thyme that features pink, magenta, lavender, or white flowers. It is best used as a ground cover.
How to Plant Thyme
Since thyme is a drought-resistant plant, it is relatively easy to grow in your own back yard either in containers or in your garden beds. It can thrive in hot conditions and loves full sun. It’s drought tolerant, as well.
Thyme is best planted from cuttings or by layering instead of starting them from seeds. Young thyme plants can be planted in the ground once the soil temperature reaches 70°F for about a couple of weeks before that last frost. Since thyme tends to grow vigorously, you need to plant them about 1 foot to 2 feet apart depending on the variety you have.
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Choose a well-draining soil with pH levels ranging from 6.0 to 8.0. They won’t need a lot of soil amendments but some organic matter like compost will go a long way. Give the plants a thorough watering only when the soil is completely dry. Otherwise, you’ll risk waterlogging them.
Thyme plants need plenty of sunlight. Outdoor, place them in an area that receives full sun. If you want to plant them indoor, place containers on a sunny windowsill.
Watch out for ants that build their nests in thyme beds as they can disrupt the roots of your plants. Spider mites may also affect your thyme plants, especially in dry weather. In the winter, cover your thyme plants to protect them from damage when the soil freezes.
Harvesting and Storing Thyme
Thyme is best harvested just before it grows its flowers because this is when the flavors in the leaves are most potent. You can clip a few sprigs as needed or you can harvest it a few times throughout the growing season.
Cut fresh stems in the morning and leave behind the tough and woody portions. Be sure to leave at least five inches of growth so your plants can keep growing.
Fresh thyme should be wrapped in plastic and stored in the refrigerator for one to two weeks. You can also dry thyme by hanging the sprigs in a warm, dark, and well-ventilated area. Dried thyme sprigs can be stored in an airtight container for 10 days to 2 weeks.
What is your favorite herb?
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