If you love cooking with thyme, you may be interested in growing it yourself. Thyme is not only easy to grow but also constitutes a fragrant addition to many culinary dishes. However, it would be best to learn how to harvest thyme properly.
Like any other herb, knowing when and how to harvest encourages your plant to grow more aggressively and produce healthier and fresher leaves. The reason why today we’ll be sharing with you everything you need to know about how to harvest thyme.
Though it may seem a little intimidating, especially if you are new to growing your herbs, you have nothing to worry about. Harvesting thyme is fairly simple. With the right tools and a few simple guidelines, you’ll soon become a pro at how to harvest thyme.
How to Harvest Thyme
How to Harvest Thyme for cooking purposes
- Using a pair of small garden scissors, cut just below the growth node or where new branches of leaves are forming, leaving the old, woody stems intact.
- When choosing which stems to cut, pick the ones where you can still leave at least 5 inches of growth so it can thrive.
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How to Harvest Thyme for further growth
- Unlike in the process of pruning for cooking purposes, cutting off the old and woody stems of the thyme is recommended if you want to keep your plant healthier and bushier. Do this when you notice new growth at the base of the plant.
- Cut ⅓ of these woody stems strictly. Cutting more than ⅓ will slow down the growth of your thyme. Use a sharp pair of scissors in doing this step to avoid damaging the new growth.
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How do you know when thyme is Ready to Harvest?
If the thyme is at least 4-5 inches across in diameter, it has matured and is ready for harvest! You can harvest fresh thyme periodically throughout the growing season, spring and summer. For the most flavor from your herbs, trim cuttings right before or as the plant flowers.
How do you store fresh thyme?
First, resist washing your harvest. This will rinse off the fragrant oil on your herb. Use it within the first three days of harvesting to maximize the thyme flavor. To maintain freshness, keep the leaves on the stem while storing.
To store in the fridge.
- You can wrap the stems in a damp paper towel and seal them inside a plastic bag. This method will keep the thyme fresh for two weeks.
- You can place the stems in a glass jar with an inch of water for longer fridge storage. This can last in your refrigerator for up to 3 months as long as you periodically change the water.
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How To freeze fresh thyme
- You can place your herb directly into a freezer bag.
- Then you can pick off the tiny leaves when cooking and need fresh thyme.
- Another freezer method is to remove the leaves from the stem and place them into ice cube trays filled with water.
- Once the ice cubes are frozen, pop them into a freezer bag for further storage. The fresh flavor can last six months in the freezer.
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Where do you cut thyme from plants?
Use sterilized garden scissors or shears and cut a sprig several inches long above a leaf node or trim a few leaves off. Avoid cuttings of the woody parts of the plant. These woody sections are less fragrant, unsuitable for culinary uses, and essential for the plant to regrow.
- Prune thyme in the early spring once you see new growth starting.
- Look for new growth at the plant’s base or lower stems.
- Once you notice new growth, use small garden shears or scissors to trim off about ⅓ of the oldest, woodiest parts of the plant.
- Do not trim the new growth.
How do you harvest thyme without killing the plant?
All you need to do is remove a small top portion of each stem every week or so. You do this with a pinching action on the top of the stem. This removes the top part of the stem cleanly, and those dormant leaf buds will start to grow. Pinching and harvesting do not damage your herb plants, and not only thyme, but you can also learn how to harvest mint, rosemary, parsley, and so much more!
How do you dry thyme?
Another option to preserve your thyme is to dry it.
If you wish to wash your herbs of debris, place them on a towel afterward and pat dry. Let them completely dry out for at least 2 hours from their rinse.
- Keep the leaves on the stems for food dehydration; the tiny leaves might fall through the trays if you don’t.
- Preheat the dehydrator to its lowest temperature, around 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Lay the cuttings in a single layer on the trays. This process can take anywhere from 1-4 hours to dry, so be sure to check frequently.
- You are done with the drying process when the leaves are crispy and crumbly.
- Let the herbs cool down for an hour before removing them from the dehydrator.
- You can place them with the stem or remove the leaves into a clean, dry airtight container.
- Place the container in a dark, dry location.
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- For hang-drying, you will want to use long stem cuttings of thyme at least 6 inches long.
- Tie 6-8 stems together with string and hang upside down in a warm, dry, and out of direct sun.
- Sometimes the leaves drop off the stem in this drying process. If you want to preserve these tidbits, tie a paper bag over the bundles, and cut a few air slits into the bag with scissors, and this will catch any of those loose thyme leaves.
- Space them a few inches apart if you have several bundles to allow air circulation.
- This process takes 2-3 weeks for the herbs to completely dry into their desired conditions when the leaves are dry and crumbly.
- If you prefer to dry the thyme leaves without the stems, you can place them on parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
- Stir the leaves around every 12 hours, and in 2-3 days, the leaves will be dried.
How to Harvest Thyme Additional Tips
- When harvesting thyme, you create an open wound, so clean gear will help keep your plants healthy.
- You can harvest fresh thyme periodically throughout the growing season, spring and summer.
- For the most flavor from your herbs, trim cuttings right before or as the plant flowers.
- The best time to harvest thyme is on a sunny morning after the leaves are dry from dew or moisture.
- The morning provides the most fragrance in thyme. Avoid harvesting during the winter when the plants are dormant and growing slowly.
- If you are growing thyme annually or in colder regions outside of its growing zones, you should do a major harvest in your garden right before the first frost.
- Thyme can tolerate a light frost, but try to harvest at the end of the growing season before any cold temperature and moisture changes for successful storage and delicious flavor.