Thyme is the last herb in this series. Did you know that there are more than 300 varieties with varying heights, colors and fragrances? At one time, I had a slight obsession with little beauty and grew several varieties. One of my favorites was woolly thyme, or T. pseudolanuginosus, which has a particular softness that my friend Arlene used to plant between her pavers on her patio, so cool. Woolly thyme, however, is not good to cook with, but it makes a great ground cover and works well in planters.
Thyme is a woody perennial hardy to zone 5, so it can make it through a rough winter. In some warmer climates, thyme is evergreen. It prefers lots of sun and dry conditions, making it very easy to care for in the hot summer months. You can grow thyme from seed but it is difficult and slow to germinate, so I usually just buy it from a nursery. Since they are perennials, you get to enjoy them year after year. Still – after a few years, your thyme plant may become too woody. Try cutting it back to two inches in the spring, or plant a new one.
Like most herbs, thyme will benefit from a haircut now and then. When using it for cooking, you can trim what you need from the tops, which are generally more tender. Be sure to cut off the flowers so that the plant continues to produce fresh, tender growth.
This herb dries very well. You can tie it in bunches and hang it in a dark warm spot, like an attic, or in a shady spot on your porch. You can also dry it on screens or even in the oven on a very low temperature.
I love the savory kick thyme brings to a dish. I typically grow common thyme, Thymus vulgaris, and lemon thyme, or Thymus x citriodorus. Both of these varieties are readily available in nurseries and are great for cooking.
When preparing to cook with fresh thyme, remove the leaves from the stem, which can be woody and bitter. This can be easily accomplished by holding the tip of the stem with one hand and, using your other hand, grab just under the top with your thumb and forefinger, slide down the stem, and easily remove the leaves as you go. Here’s a tip: Doctor up your veggie dip by adding thyme. Just combine sour cream and Ranch dip mix, and then add a couple of tablespoons of fresh thyme. If you are using dried, cut back to one tablespoon. Everyone will want the recipe. Here are two more: