Thyme: A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information on thyme

Thymus vulgaris or thyme is a species of flowering plant in the mint family Lamiaceae.

This woody evergreen subshrub is familiar to herb gardens. It is a bushy plant that grows up to a foot tall and 16 inches wide. Its small grey-green leaves are highly aromatic, and in early summer it presents clusters of purple or pink flowers.

common names & nomenclature
The plant's common name thyme is taken from Old French thym, tym (13c.), from Latin thymum, from Greek thymon, possibly from thyein meaning "burn as a sacrifice". If so this would indicate the plant was used as an incense.

Also known as:
common thyme, garden thyme, thyme

Thyme, the herb with a peppery aroma and taste
Thyme: Where in the World
habitat and range for thyme

Thymus vulgaris is native to southern Europe from the western Mediterranean to southern Italy.

Thyme: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting thyme

Thyme grows on dry slopes, rocks, rock walls, and in cultivated gardens in a sunny location.

Thyme is often found on clay or limestone soils. It succeeds in dry soils, poor soils and tolerates drought once it is established. Plants can be grown on old walls.

This hardy herb can be propagated from either seed, cuttings, and/or root divisions. For best results, sow seeds indoors keeping the temperature around 70°F for germination. For propagation via cuttings, place snipped stem pieces with new growth in wet sand. In two weeks roots should appear. Root division works best in the spring. Be sure to uproot a plant carefully to preserve as much of its root oil as possible. Divide the root system—in half or thirds—and replant the divisions a foot apart in moist soil.

Leaves and flowers may be harvested just before the plants flower, dry for later use.

Store dried thyme and powdered thyme in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Thyme: The Rest of the Story
thyme history, folklore, literature & more

time to grow thyme
Thyme is commonly found in the kitchen herb cabinet...

Like several other aromatic kitchen herbs, thyme was used as a meat preservative in ancient times. It was sprinkled on sacrificial animals to make them more acceptable to the gods. Thyme was introduced into cooking as an offshoot of its meat-preserving action.

Charlemagne ordered thyme grown in all his imperial gardens.

Thyme is an aromatic, perennial, many-branched, ground cover shrub that reaches about 12 inches. It has small, opposite, virtually stalk less leaves and lilac or pink flowers that bloom in midsummer.

This hardy herb can be propagated from seeds, cuttings, and root divisions. Seeds require a temperature around 70F to germinate and often do best when started indoors. For cuttings, snip 3-inch pieces from stems with new growth and place them in wet sand. Roots should appear in about two weeks. The best time for root division is in spring. Uproot a plant carefully preserving as much of its roots oil as possible. Divide it in half or thirds and replant the divisions 12 inches apart in moist soil.

Once established, thyme requires little care. It prefers well-drained soil on the dry side. Clumps tend to become woody after a few years. To prevent this, roots should be divided periodically. Wetting thyme leaves during watering reduces their fragrance. Thyme survives frost, but in areas with cold winters, use mulch. Thyme may be killed if winter temperatures drop below 10F.

Harvest the leaves and flower top just before the flowers bloom. Dry and store them in airtight containers to preserve the herb's oil.