Thyme is a fragrant herb from the mint family known for its small, delicate leaves and purple flowers. It is a great companion plant in herb gardens and is easy to grow, thriving in well-drained soil and up to USDA hardiness zones. Knowing when and how to harvest thyme is essential to ensure you get the best flavor and maximum yield.
Before harvesting thyme, choosing the right time to pick it is essential. You can harvest thyme throughout the growing season, but the best time is just before it flowers when the plants’ oils are at their highest concentration. When picking thyme, it’s best to pick the tiny leaves and avoid harvesting the woody stems and growth nodes, as they can be bitter and tough.
There are a few options for harvesting thyme. You can cut the thyme stems just above the growth node or strip the fragrant leaves from the stems. Once you prune thyme, you can use a few sprigs immediately or store the leaves for later use.
To store fresh thyme leaves, pat them dry with a damp paper towel and then store them in an airtight container or plastic bag in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can freeze thyme leaves in ice cube trays or dry them in a food dehydrator for long-term storage.
Our guide teaches you how to harvest thyme without killing the plant. By the end, you’ll know when to harvest thyme, how to use the woody stem fresh, or dry it and store it for when a recipe calls for your stored lemon thyme. (Learn How To Clean Raspberries)
Tips for Growing Thyme
When growing thyme, the process requires harvesting. Regular thyme plant pruning encourages healthy growth and ensures a plentiful yield. Thyme should be pruned ideally in the early spring or late summer, just as new growth starts.
As you grow thyme, harvest frequently. Pick Thyme from the leaves and stems required for cooking, with at least two-thirds of the plant remaining uncut to develop new foliage.
How To Harvest Thyme If You Are Using It Fresh
When harvesting thyme, it is essential to consider the plant’s flowers. Harvesting thyme fresh when the plant has just begun to bloom is recommended, as this is where the herb contains its highest oil content and provides maximum flavor.
When selecting which thyme to harvest, a few varieties of Thyme are available.
- Common thyme (Thymus vulgaris) has a strong and earthy flavor and can be used in many dishes, such as soups, stews, and roasted meats.
- Lemon thyme (Thymus citriodorus) is another popular variety with a bright, citrusy flavor for chicken or fish dishes.
- Another option is orange balsam thyme (Thymus vulgaris ‘Fragrantissimus’), which provides a sweet scent with hints of anise in addition to its culinary uses.
When harvesting fresh thyme from your garden, first select stems that have developed new growth since previous harvests.
Use Young Thyme Plants
To harvest fresh thyme leaves, you can use young thyme plants. When harvesting young thyme plants, taking tiny leaves to take what you need and not strip the plant completely is essential.
Freshly harvested thyme leaves are perfect for adding fresh flavor to your cooking. When using fresh herbs like thyme in your recipes, remember that they have a stronger flavor than dried herbs, so adjust accordingly. With young thyme plants on hand, you’ll always have access to fresh herbs whenever needed!
When Should I Harvest Thyme?
So, when should you harvest your garden thyme? The best time to harvest thyme is just before they start to flower. When harvesting thyme, cut the stems close to the base of the plant using sharp scissors or pruning shears.
Harvesting garden thyme requires some finesse, but following these tips will ensure you get the most out of your herb plants. By waiting until just before plant flowers are flowering and cutting carefully at the base of each stem, you’ll have an abundant supply of fresh herbs for all your culinary needs. (Learn How To Repot A Peace Lily)
Is Harvesting Thyme The Same As Pruning Thyme?
Harvesting and pruning thyme are two different processes, although they may seem similar. Harvesting refers to collecting mature leaves or stems for culinary or medicinal use, while pruning involves cutting back woody growth to promote new growth and maintain plant health.
When harvesting thyme, avoiding removing more than one-third of the plant’s foliage at once is essential. This will ensure the plant continues growing and producing new leaves throughout the growing season. Cut off a few leaves from individual stems or branches with scissors or pruning shears to harvest thyme.
In contrast, when pruning thyme, remove any dead or damaged wood and overly woody stems that may inhibit new growth. Use sharp pruning shears to make clean cuts at a 45-degree angle above a leaf node. Pruning can occur in early spring before active growth begins or in late summer after flowering.
Once you have harvested your thyme, strip the leaves and spread them out in a single layer on dehydrator trays or hang them upside down in a warm, dry place for several days to dry thyme until completely dry. Dried thyme can then be stored in an airtight container for later use in cooking or making herbal remedies.
After harvesting fresh thyme, the next step is to dry it for future use. Drying thyme is a great way to preserve its flavor and aroma. One of the easiest ways to do this is by using ice cubes. Simply strip the leaves off the thyme stems and place them in an ice cube tray. Fill each compartment with water and freeze until solid.
Once frozen, remove the thyme ice cubes from the tray and store them in a freezer-safe container or bag. This convenient method allows you to easily add thyme to your favorite dishes throughout the year without worrying about it going bad.
Another way to preserve the taste is adding some varieties of thyme to a bottle of olive oil to infuse and spruce up your salads. (Read When To Harvest Romaine Lettuce)
Prep Your Herbs
Thyme is a fragrant herb that can add flavor to your dishes. When it comes to harvesting thyme, timing is everything. The best time to harvest thyme is just before the purple flowers bloom. This will give you the most flavorful leaves and stems.
To prepare your thyme for use, wash it thoroughly under cold water. Then, remove the leaves from the stem by holding onto the top and sliding your fingers down towards the base.
You can also gently run a fork along the member of the mint and stem in the opposite direction of growth to help loosen any remaining leaves. If you wish to freeze thyme, prepare them as usual, then add them to a freezer bag and remove all the air. To use, you remove a sprig as needed.
Air Dry Herbs
Once you plant Thyme, you can harvest this perennial herb throughout the year. To get the best flavor, grow thyme and harvest at the right time. One type of thyme that is well-suited for air-drying is caraway thyme, which has a strong aroma and flavor.
To harvest caraway thyme, wait until the flowers bloom before clipping off the top few inches of the stems. To air dry your caraway thyme, bundle several stems with twine or a rubber band and hang them upside down in a warm, dry place out of direct sunlight.
Adding them to a baking sheet in a single layer is also possible, where it may take up to two weeks or more for your herbs to dry fully. Once ready, strip off the dry thyme leaves and store them in an airtight container away from heat and moisture.
How To Harvest Thyme For Drying
Once your thyme plant has fully grown, it is time to start harvesting. The best time to do this is in the morning when the essential oils are strongest.
- To harvest thyme for drying, look for healthy stems with young leaves.
- Cut these stems from the base of the plant using a sharp pair of scissors or pruning shears. Be careful not to cut too much from one area and leave enough stems behind so that they can continue growing.
- Next, separate the leaves from the stems by running your fingers along them downward.
- Once you have separated all the leaves from the stems, pat them dry with a paper towel or cloth and spread them out on a wire rack or baking sheet.
- Finally, leave your thyme leaves in a warm and airy location until they are completely dried out – this usually takes 1-2 weeks, depending on humidity levels in your area.
- Once dry to the touch and crispy, store them in an airtight container away from direct sunlight for up to six months.
Harvesting thyme for drying is easy if you follow these simple steps and don’t damage your plant! (Learn How To Harvest Dill Without Killing The Plant)
How To Dry Thyme In A Dehydrator
After harvesting thyme from your herb garden, the next step is to dry thyme properly so that you can use them through cold winters when you wouldn’t have any growing. Thyme thrives in full sun, so winter harvesting these herbs outside is out of the question.
With a food dehydrator, drying your fresh-cut thyme is relatively easy and convenient.
Not only does this method retain the herb’s flavor and aroma, but it also ensures that moisture doesn’t linger in your other herbs, either.
- First, prepare your thyme by washing them thoroughly with water and patting them dry with a towel.
- Once completely dry, remove the leaves from the stems before spreading them on the dehydrator tray.
- Be sure not to overcrowd the tray, slowing the drying process.
- Set your dehydrator at 95°F for about 4-6 hours until all moisture has evaporated from the thyme leaves.
- Afterward, check if they are crisp and brittle when touched.
- If your herb still feels soft or damp after this time frame, leave it in for an additional hour or two until it completely dries out.
- Your dried thyme should be stored in an airtight container away from sunlight for future use in recipes, teas, or even potpourri blends!