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Thyme is a tiny-leaved herb that is most often used in French cooking. Make sure to strip the leaves from the woody stems before adding them to recipes (unless it’s used to flavor a roast or soup and then removed before serving!). Run your finger and thumb along the stems (the opposite direction of growth) to easily remove the leaves.
Added bonus: Thyme is known for its antioxidant content
Taste: Lemony, slightly peppery and minty
Perfect For: Stews, rice dishes, dips, and sauces. potatoes, breads. Lemon thyme is wonderful on fish
The interesting health benefits of thyme include its ability to relieve stress, reduce respiratory issues, improve heart health, boost the strength of the immune system, protect against chronic diseases, stimulate blood flow, and prevent fungal infections.
Some Amazing Health Benefits of Thyme
Some of the key benefits of thyme tea include relieving menstrual cramps, soothing indigestion, promoting cognitive strength, aiding sleep, preventing infections, boosting the immune system, protecting against chronic disease and healing respiratory conditions. As far as side effects are concerned, thyme tea should be avoided by anyone allergic to plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae. Also, excessive consumption of thyme tea can lead to nausea or vomiting, as well as skin rash, and a slowed heart rate. However, when this healthy tea is consumed in normal, moderated amounts, its positive health effects should far outweigh the negative ones.
In The Garden
Thyme is one of the easiest herb plants to grow. Plant in well draining area in loose garden soil, water when dry, and enjoy all the benefits thyme brings to your garden, table, and cup.
Thyme is hard to grow from seeds, so it’s best to use brought plants or a start from another plant you already have. A start is when you divide a plant and use the sections removed in another area or in a container. This is a great way for gardeners to share their herbs and knowledge over the garden fence.
As a spreading plant, thyme can be used as a ground cover in a site with excellent drainage. Thyme does best in full sun. Start from young plants set out in spring after the last frost. Plant in well-drained soil with a pH of about 7.0; it prefers slightly alkaline conditions. Add lime to the pot or ground to raise the pH if needed. A fertilizer can be added to the soil at or before planting and again each spring. Mulching with limestone gravel or builder’s sand improves drainage and prevents root rot.
German thyme is perennial in zones 5 to 9, lemon thyme in zones 7 to 9. Easy to grow, thyme needs little care except for a regular light pruning after the first year. Do this after the last spring frost, so that the plants do not get woody and brittle. Pinching the tips of the stems keeps plants bushy, but stop clipping about a month before the first frost of fall to make sure that new growth is not too tender going into the cool weather. Cut thyme back by one third in spring, always cutting above points where you can see new growth, never below into the leafless woody stem.
Lemon thyme is more upright and more vigorous than the other thymes. In the North and cold climates, cover with pine boughs after the soil freezes to help protect from winter damage. In zone 10, thyme is usually an annual, often succumbing to heat and humidity in mid-summer.
There are several thymes available. By all means, smell and taste before buying to get the thyme that meets your needs. Also keep in mind, there are ground hugging and upright thymes.
Spider mites can be a problem in dry weather. Also watch out for root rot and fungus diseases in humid climates. Good drainage, good air circulation, and proper planting as described above will help prevent disease.
Harvest and Storage
Thyme’s tiny flowers are pretty and white. Though you can pinch the flowers off to allow the plant to produce more leaves, the flavor of thyme really isn’t compromised by letting the plant bloom. Harvest leaves as you need them, including through the winter in places where it is evergreen. Although the flavor is most concentrated just before plants bloom, thyme is so aromatic that the leaves have good flavor all the time. Strip the tiny leaves from woody stems before using.
Thyme may also be dried for winter use. Just before bloom (the best time, but anytime is okay), cut the stems 5-6 inches, tie end with a string and hang to dry in a cool place out of direct sunlight. I dry my herbs on the porch. This method can be used for most herbs as in the photo above.
Store completely dried thyme in glass jar in the cupboard (you can use others, but glass is best). The herb will be crunchy when dry.
The leaves can be removed, or left on the stems. The more whole you leave the herb, as a rule for all herbs, the more the benefits are retained. The herb can be ground as needed.
Word of Caution: For those with a sensitive stomach, high intake of thyme can cause gastrointestinal distress. Having said that, this herb is not known as an allergenic substance and can be consumed regularly in your diet. Also, may cause breathing problems in some people, so test a small amount if you’re concerned.
Lisa Ray, Herbalist