Growing English Thyme


English Thyme is perhaps my favorite culinary herb in the garden and in the kitchen. Use it on meats, vegetables, in casseroles, soups and stuffing. It can make a wonderful marinade or pâté. Thyme is excellent when added to herb bread and flavored butters. It is popular in French, Creole and Cajun cooking.

It makes a beautiful addition to any herb garden with delicate leaves and surprising flowers in spring. English Thyme typically grows to 6 to 12 inches high and will spread out to 1 to 3-feet. Its fragrance makes it a good candidate for a window box or container.

The flowers of English Thyme can range from Pink, Purple/Lavender to White in color. The plant is an evergreen herb requiring full sun to partial shade for best growth. Thyme provides a natural attracter for butterflies in the garden.

Thyme should be planted in well-drained soil. The preferred soil is neutral to alkaline. Lightly harvest the leaves after flowering to encourage new growth.

Most Thyme will grow well in climate zones 4-11.

A flavorful culinary herb, English Thyme makes a good accent to recipes calling for parsley to season meats, stews and soups. When growing scented varieties: lemon thymes, caraway thyme, and orange thyme, these should be used fresh, with very little or no cooking. Used in baked goods, they can capture the flavor of the herb in the surrounding dough or batter.

1. History of thyme

The Romans introduced thyme throughout Europe to purify their rooms, and to give an aromatic flavor to cheese and liqueurs. During the European Middle Ages the herb was believed to be a source of courage and was placed beneath pillows as a sleep aid and to ward off nightmares. In more recent history, the French, Italians and Spanish grazed sheep and goats on thyme for the additional flavor it gave their meat.

2. Tips for growing English Thyme

• Plant thyme in full sun and in well-drained soil
• Thyme requires soil that is neutral or alkaline
• Plant in holes 3 to 4 inches deep and across
• Fertilize thyme with an organic fertilizer after the plant is established
• Do not over fertilize or the flavor may be reduced
• Space thyme 6 to 9-inches apart.
• Mulch around the plant but not on the top
• Mulch with 3 inches of organic compost
• Water well until the soil is moist
• Trim back the plants in spring

Botanical Name:       Thymus vulgaris
Common Name:        English Thyme, summer thyme, winter thyme, or French thyme
Genus:                      Thymus

3. Popular thyme species

Thymus herba-barona: (caraway thyme) is used both as a culinary herb and a ground cover, and has a strong caraway.
Thymus praecox: (mother of thyme, wild thyme), cultivated as an ornamental.
Thymus pseudolanuginosus: (woolly thyme) is not a culinary herb, but is grown as a ground cover.
Thymus serpyllum: (wild thyme, creeping thyme) an important nectar source for honeybees. A low-growing variety of thyme, it is good for walkways.
Thymus citriodorus: various lemon thymes, orange thymes, lime thyme.

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