Harvesting thyme in your own garden has the advantage that you can use it for seasoning at any time. How to preserve the aromatic herb, moreover, is in this article.
- Thyme (Thymus) is an aromatic herb for grilled food or tea preparations
- year-round use
- tastiest in autumn or before flowering
- flowering time depends on the variety
- preservation methods: drying, freezing or pickling
The culinary herb is evergreen. In the spring it sprouts new. Flowering then occurs from May to October, depending on the variety.
In order for the plant to remain vital, regular pruning is advisable. However, if it is harvested frequently, additional pruning is not necessary.
Use in the kitchen
Typically, thyme sprigs are used to marinate and flavor grilled food. However, the dried herb also goes very well with fish or potatoes. Unlike many other herbs, the aroma of thyme does not dissipate when it is cooked for a long time. On the contrary, the flavor develops over a longer period of time.
For cooking, the herb can be harvested continuously. To do this, simply cut off the necessary leaves or twigs with scissors. For stockpiling or for use as a medicinal herb, the right time to harvest plays a more important role.
Choose the right time to harvest:
For preservation, the highest possible content of valuable ingredients is desirable. The same applies if the medicinal effect is to be used. As with many other herbs, thyme’s essential oil content is highest just before flowering. Other tips for choosing the right time to harvest:
- young shoots have more constituents than old ones
- rain and too much sun leach the leaves
- the day should be warm and dry
- the best time of day is late morning or, without midday sun, early afternoon
- dew should be dried before harvesting
For use in the kitchen it is enough to harvest single leaves from the thyme. To harvest a larger supply, the shoots are cut back completely. This is due to the fact that the cut areas are smaller in the process. The more cut surfaces there are, the faster the ingredients evaporate.
There are several ways to preserve thyme sprigs. The best known are drying and freezing. It is important that you process the herb as soon as possible after harvesting. Leaving it for a longer period of time will deteriorate the quality.
Many utensils are not necessary for drying. The thyme branches are cleaned, washed only in an emergency, and then tied into small bundles with thin twine. Hang the bundles in a warm, dry room, out of direct sunlight.
Note: Well suited for hanging herbs is a sock hanger.
A slightly different procedure is followed when drying in an oven or dehydrator. Spread the twigs out flat. Either on the baking sheet or the grates for the dehydrator. The oven should not be hotter than 50 degrees, and the door should remain open a crack during drying.
Modern dehydrators have special settings for herbs, which makes it very easy to use. Both methods are faster than air drying, which in turn is particularly gentle.
This method of preservation keeps herbs fresh and aromatic for a particularly long time. Thyme sprigs can be frozen whole or chopped into small pieces. For whole sprigs, pre-freezing on a board or baking sheet is a good idea. Then transfer them to freezer bags or cans and label with date and contents.
Another variation is to freeze chopped thyme sprigs in ice cube trays, along with some water. These can later be added immediately to the appropriate dishes, without thawing.
If you already know exactly what you want to do with the thyme after harvesting, you can preserve it by pickling. This method of preservation is very versatile. Depending on the preference, different utensils are necessary.
All variants have in common that they are easy to use. The thyme branches are cleaned or washed and then dried. When using salt, it is enough to cut the twigs a little small. Depending on the size of the jars or bottles used, the branches that are to be preserved in vinegar, oil or honey can be left whole. After placing the twigs in the chosen jars, simply fill up with the chosen ingredient.
When preserving with salt, it is not necessary to dry the twigs beforehand. They can be chopped small and simply layered alternately with salt in small jars. The amount of salt must be sufficient to cover the herbs well.
Note: However, you can also process dried herbs together with salt to make herb salt.
Preserving with other herbs
If thyme sprigs are intended for teas, they can be processed right away along with other herbs, such as sage, fennel, and ribwort. Herbs for teas are always dried. After the herbs are well dried, they are stored in tightly closed containers. For this purpose, they can be crushed a little. The container should be labeled with the tea composition and intended use.
Seasoning herbs in cubes
The freezing method is suitable for this purpose. For freezing, chop the thyme sprigs together with sage or rosemary and put them in ice cube containers. Combinations with other herbs are also possible. If necessary, the herbs can thus season the appropriate dish right together.
Note: Sage and rosemary are also good for pickling in vinegar or oil along with thyme.
Frequently asked questions
What is the difference between each variety of thyme?
Apart from the different essential oil content and the associated differences in taste, thyme varieties also flower differently. This means that the timing for harvesting can vary from variety to variety.
Is thyme hardy?
Many varieties, such as true thyme (Thymus vulgaris), are and can also be harvested throughout the year. If the choice falls on a non-hardy thyme, it thrives well in a tub and is overwintered indoors. Even there, shoots can be cut for eating or evening tea.
What are the medicinal properties of thyme?
The essential oils have an expectorant and antibiotic effect and relieve cough irritation. Therefore, thyme is often a component of cough drops or cough teas.