The Flavor of Thyme
Last week I did a post on one of my all time favorite herbs to grow: How To Grow and Harvest Basil. Well Thyme is the other herb that I just have to have in my garden!
Thyme is so versatile and can be used in stews, stocks, homemade soups, lamb, tomatoes and casseroles.
There are many different varieties of thyme but the two most popular is common thyme and lemon thyme. Both are highly aromatic and have slightly pungent sweet flavor. Lemon thyme has more of a citrus flavor to it.
I use thyme throughout the growing season but use it the most in the fall because that is when I am cooking my stews and soups. I can not make a soup or stew without adding the flavor of fresh thyme!
Lets dive into growing and harvesting thyme shall we?
Thyme is very easy to grow and care for. You can grow thyme in your garden, in pots or right along your landscaped yard. Thyme also grows pretty easily indoors so it makes a nice green plant for the winter months and it smells so amazing too!
Thyme can be an annual or perennial depending on where you live. In my area (Wisconsin), we have pretty harsh winters and it usually will grow back but comes back pretty woody, so I like to plant a new plant every season.
It is important to have well drained soil. Thyme spreads pretty quickly but can easily be controlled by harvesting regularly.
I usually grow my thyme from a plant bought at a nursery. I tried to grow it from seed one year and had a hard time getting the seeds to germinate. A little goes a long way and remember, thyme is a quick grower and will spread. For our family of 5 one plant is usually sufficient.
Removing Flower Heads
Like basil, thyme will flower. You can snap the flowers off if you would like your plant to be more bushy, but it isn’t absolutely necessary. You can see in the picture above that my thyme is really bushy and I never remove the flower heads.
If you have your thyme in a pot it might not be as bushy. In this case you can remove the flowers so that the energy of the plant goes into the leaves and not the flower heads. Here is what the flowers look like (pictured below).
Pruning & Harvesting Thyme
Thyme can be harvested at any stage of growth. I might harvest my thyme a bit different then others. I harvest my thyme and keep it under control by how I harvest it. Let me explain.
Notice that I have my thyme in 1 square foot of space. I want to keep it in that space only. So when I harvest my thyme I cut my thyme on the outer layer and at the base of the plant. This allows me to keep it from spreading so quickly.
If you are wanting your thyme to spread and grow more rapidly, cut the plant 2/3 the way down the stem and leave 1/3 of the stem remaining. In this case you are pruning your thyme and it will quickly grow back.
Cooking With Thyme
Once you harvest your thyme, there is a proper way to remove the leaves. The central stem is usually woody. It becomes more woody as it matures. It is important to remove this woody stem and to not cook with it.
To do this start by removing the smaller stems from the central stem. The smaller stems typically are not woody and can be chopped up with the leaves.
Now that you have the central stem fully exposed, place your fingers at the top of the stem and firmly slide the leaves down the woody stem. The leaves should easily come off.
Discard the woody stem and run a knife through the leaves. I usually like to chop mine just a little because I love large pieces of thyme in my dishes.
How To Use Dried Thyme and Fresh Thyme
You now are ready to cook with your fresh thyme. Remember if a recipe calls for 1 tsp of dried thyme you can replace it with 1 tbsp of fresh thyme. So for every teaspoon of dried thyme you can use 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme.
If you prefer to use dried thyme, harvest your thyme in a large amount and tie off at the base of the stem so you are able to hang it upside down. Hang in a cool dry place for a week or two and allow to fully dry. Once fully dried, remove the leaves from the stems and store in an air tight container.
If you haven’t grown thyme before in your garden, why not give it a shot. It really is simple process to learn about growing and harvesting thyme. It also grows really well in pots and would make for a nice indoor plant as well.
A Few of My Favorite Recipes With Thyme
Here are just a few of my favorite recipes that I like to use my thyme in! Click on picture to goto recipe.
Share Your Thoughts
Do you like to cook with thyme? Do you grow thyme in your garden?