Thymus vulgaris Herb – Culinary USDA Zones5 to 9
Soil pH 6.5 to 7.0 Full Sun Perennial
Thyme is a perennial herb that belongs in every herb and vegetable garden. Thyme has very small flowers and leaves. Depending on the variety, the flowers can range from white to a deep magenta and all shades in between.
They need minimal care once established, a regular light pruning after the initial season is however advisable. Do this after the last early season frost, to prevent the plants from becoming brittle
Creeping varieties, will cover walls, landscapes and walkway and are tolerant of light foot traffic. Other varieties form a mat and generally have reddish purple flowers and browning fall foliage, they make an excellent ground cover.
Bush varieties are the most common, they have woody stems and branches and reach up to 8 inches high. They grow well in containers either by themselves or symbiotically with plants that won’t shade them out. Thyme adds to the aesthetic appeal of a patio by allowing it to spill over the edges of the container.
Thyme plants require full sun and a dry, well drained soil with a pH of about 7.0. Plant thyme seed outdoors in a prepared bed in fall for the following season or early spring for the current one. Spacing varies widely depending on the variety you are growing, try to leave reasonable space so as to not upset the thyme space continuum.
You can also start your seeds indoors in pots or flats. Bush thymes frequently reseed themselves freely, so there will be constant regeneration.
You can also start your seeds indoors in pots or flats. If plants don’t survive a hard winter they can be regrown from cuttings. In colder regions it is advisable to provide some form of winter protection for the plants, cold frames or heavy ground cover.
Thyme makes good companion plants for potatoes, celery, dill, chamomile, sage, mint, pennyroyal, rosemary, lavender, beets and onions. It also serves as a deterrent for cabbage worm and works well when planted near brassicas such as cabbage and broccoli.
Spider Mites are a pest particularly in dry weather. Root rot and fungus is a problem under wet conditions or poorly drained soils
You can harvest pieces from thyme plants all season long, but the flavor is best just before bud break and flowering. Snip off the top half of the plant and hang it upside down to dry out in a shaded well ventilated location. Drying trays or dehydrators will also work. Plants should definitely be harvested before the first frost.
Harvest in the morning, after any dew has evaporated, or in the early evening under dry conditions is best. The flavor of thyme, unlike some other herbs isn’t degraded by allowing the plant to bloom.
Once the leaves are completely and absolutely dry, hand pick them from the stems and store in a jar or air tight storage bag until ready to use. It can also be frozen or refrigerated, or preserved in oils and butter, mayonnaise, vinegar’s and salad dressings. Thyme is best known as an ingredient in Italian dishes such as pasta and pizza sauces, but is also good with eggs, poultry, fish.
Types of Thyme
Common thyme is the variety most commonly used in cooking. Some thymes have aromas reminiscent of orange, balsam, lime, nutmeg or even oregano.
Golden lemon thyme has yellow rimmed leaves and a strong citrus aroma. Common thyme, elfin thyme, silver needle thyme, lemon frost thyme, lavender thyme, lime thyme – there are dozens of varieties with subtle differences to suit many tastes.