QUESTION: How do you harvest thyme? I wanted to grow some this year to use in the kitchen. Do you have to harvest it all at once, or can you just pick a little at a time as you need it for cooking? – Riley T
GARDENING CHANNEL REPLIES: How you harvest thyme will depend upon whether the plant is being grown as an annual or a perennial.
This herb typically grows as a perennial in planting zones five through nine. If growing the plant as an annual, you should harvest it as soon as the plant shows signs of flowering if you want to harvest larger quantities at a time.
You only want to snip away the top 6 inches of the plant to ensure you leave plenty for regrowth. Be mindful not to harvest any older or woody parts of the plant. Thyme can be harvested two or more times per growing season when grown as a perennial.
You don’t have to wait until the plant is showing signs of flowering if you only want to harvest smaller batches. Snipping smaller portions of the plant away, as-needed, is perfectly acceptable.
Ensure at least 5 inches of the plant remains after smaller harvests to leave room for the plant to grow back.
Also, if your thyme plant begins to look leggy, don’t hesitate to trim the plant back. You may enjoy the smaller harvest while encouraging the plant to grow fuller.
If you’re growing thyme as an annual, you should wait until the end of the growing season prior to the first frost to harvest.
Plus, you should try to harvest the thyme prior to massive swings in temperatures or moisture as this can impact the flavor.
There are a few other things you should know when harvesting thyme. First, don’t harvest thyme in its first growing season unless it’s growing as an annual.
If the plant is a perennial, give it time to establish its root system before you begin enjoying its bounty.
Next, it’s best to harvest thyme in the morning after the dew has had a chance to dry. This is when the plant is most fragrant.
Finally, it’s vital that you harvest thyme correctly and store it properly as well. When harvesting thyme, don’t tear it away from the plant. This can harm it and leave your herb open to pests and diseases.
Instead, use a pair of clean shears to snip parts of the plant away. Once your harvest is complete, don’t wash the thyme unless it’s dirty for some reason.
This will help keep the essential oils in place. You may store fresh thyme in a plastic baggy for up to two weeks in your refrigerator.
Drying thyme is also a great way to store the harvest. You may use a dehydrator or hang the thyme. Once fully dried, store in an airtight container. It should last up to two years before the flavor begins to fade.
Freezing thyme is also a great way to store it for later use.
You now have a better understanding of when to harvest thyme, how to harvest thyme, and what to do with your harvest.
Hopefully, these tips will encourage healthy plants and allow you to enjoy fresh thyme from your herb garden for many years.