Garden or common thyme is a core herb in the repertoire of herbs. Its fantastic taste enhances almost any savoury dish - promise! The only faddle is you have to pick the tiny leaves from the stalks to use them. But a cheat's way is to cook using the whole stalk and then pick out the stalks afterwards once the leaves have fallen off - just remember how many you used. The thyme itself has tiny dark green leaves that are thin and aromatic. The plant is neat and spreads out over the surrounding soil and will naturally layer itself if it is happy. In summer the whole plant becomes covered with tiny mauve pink flowers which look wonderful. Thyme is a massive genus comprising many delicious and decorative varieties. We also stock Golden Queen and Silver Queen thymes which all work well together and give you a sample of the many flavours and types of thyme out there.
Thyme falls into that rare bracket of plant which is both aesthetically beautiful and immensely practical. It will grow in cracks and crevices and so it nestles happily between paving stones releasing its aroma as you walk over it. If grown in a good rich soil it, counterintuitively, loses all its flavour, so treat it mean in a stony, shallow topsoiled area but do keep it in the sun which encourages the aromatic oils to come to the surface of the leaf to give it a better flavour. The summer sees its pink mauve flowers arrive like a layer of voile over the whole plant. If you grow many thymes together you can have a thyme lawn with all the interweaving colours emulating an Oriental carpet. Thyme does grow well in pots but use a peat, grit and bark mix that is not too high in nutrients and keep watering to a minimum. Either way, you will need to trim the plant into shape after it has flowered to encourage more foliage and to prevent the thyme from becoming too woody. You could also consider thyme if you were making a scented garden, along with rosemary, sage, chamomile and lemon balm. Thyme can be picked all year round, but if you wanted to dry it (which you can quite successfully) choose to pick it before it flowers. Add some stems to light olive oils or white wine vinegars to also capture its essential herbiness.
In the Middle Ages thyme was extremely popular, having first arrived here with the Romans (along with many other herbs!). Us British however saw to use it as a tea in order to be able to see fairies! More prosaically it was often added to nosegays to pre-empt the stench of medieval life and to ward off disease.