Grow thyme

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Grow thyme

By Jane

Make Life Easy

Thyme is a breeze to grow, and it’s winter hardy, so you can pick leaves year-round. But make sure you pick the right thyme for your purposes. Creeping thymes are great to look at, but most are best kept out of the kitchen.

The classic culinary thyme is Thymus vulgaris, and it’s the favoured choice for casseroles and roasts. It has a rich, full flavour that doesn’t fade during cooking. But there are other thymes that are equally useful in the kitchen, including pizza thyme (Thymus nummularius), lemon thyme (Thymus citriodorus), orange thyme (Thymus citriodorus ‘Fragrantissimus’) and caraway thyme (Thymus herba-barona).

Pizza thyme has dark green, glossy leaves with a hint of oregano to the taste. It is larger than common thyme and more vigorous, and finds favour with many cooks because of its robust flavour.

The citrus thymes are less pungent, but their softer leaves and slightly sweet, lemony flavour are ideal in salads, mayonnaise and herb butters.

Caraway thyme has a distinct caraway scent and can be used as a substitute for real caraway. Use it for spicing up bread, soft cheeses or meat. In medieval times this variety was used to disguise the taste of tainted meat (its botanical name, herba-barona, translates to “herb of beef”).

In the kitchen

Whole sprigs of thyme can be added to roasts, casseroles, soups, fish stews and the likes. The leaves will fall off during cooking, making it easy to remove the bare stems just before serving.

Lemon thymes should be added near the end of cooking as their flavour doesn’t hold. If using in salads, chop it just before serving, as it quickly loses flavour and turns black.

Planting thyme in the garden

Plant thyme in a sunny spot in free-draining soil. Thyme doesn’t like wet feet, so add pumice or horticultural grit to improve drainage if necessary. Or plant your herbs in pots.

If planting in pots, use a potting mix that’s low in nutrients. Rich soil encourages softer growth and diminishes flavour. Plants in the garden also grow best without the addition of rich fertilisers. An organic mulch or a little blood and bone sprinkled around each plant in spring is all that’s required.

Although drought tolerant, thyme does benefit from occasional watering in dry spells.

Take cuttings from new growth in spring or early summer when plants are not in flower. Creeping thymes put out aerial roots as they spread, which makes them easy to divide in spring. The divisions can be potted up in containers and left to grow on for a few weeks, or they can be planted straight into the garden.

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