Subject: Re: Separating leaves from stems of thyme.
Date: Tue, 05 Mar 96 12:28:31 EST

> I grow regular thyme and lemon thyme. I use them less than I'd like to in cooking because it takes so long to strip the leaves off the stems (which are often quite woody). The stuff that I freeze is OK, most of the leaves shake off when the branches are frozen, but I like to use it fresh when I can. Anyone know a quick/easy way to do this?

Hi Jenny and all,

I carefully pick off the leaves at the end of the stalk or save that end for garnish. Then, holding tightly to the end with my left hand I take my thumb and forefinger of right hand with the woody stem between them. Keeping them tight enough to strip the leaves I run my closed thumb and forefinger down the stem. You'll be working your right hand against the direction that the leaves come off of the stem and they will strip off easily. Really tiny shoots will also get stripped, you may have to chop them a bit but most of the work is done with the method I described.

For soups and sauces where I'm using regular thyme (it is stronger in thyme taste than the other kinds) I just throw in the sprig and take it out at the end; like bay leaf. Or if it is something that you will be straining you can chop the sprig a bit.

From: Laurie Otto <lotto.PTIALASKA.NET>

> >> Hi everyone on the new list! I have a question about Thyme. I have a sickly clump out side which has been getting smaller and smaller every year. I would like to save it, maybe by potting it. Should I just rip it out of the ground and put it in a pot roots and all? Thanks for your help.
> >Is it common thyme(Thymus Vulgaris). How old is it? Is it very woody?
> Yes I believe it is. It seems old and has a significant woodiness to it.
> >Maybe it's just too old. I've found it hard to propagate from cuttings for this plant as it's too dry and brittle. The creeping thymes are a breeze, but bushy, common thyme probably needs more attention. I did transplant mine to a pot when I moved house it seemed to survive OK, as long as I watered it regularly as the pot dried out a lot more than when it was in the ground.
> I'll try transplanting it. If it dies it's no worse than it is now. If I grow new common thyme should I use a small plant to start or seeds? Also whats a creeping thyme? Does it taste the same? You said it was easier to grow so maybe thats the solution.

In my experience, thyme is very easy to grow from seed. Since I live in Alaska, I start everything inside (don't know how it does outside in warmer climates), but thyme grows easily. I start it in 4" pots, and scatter a bunch of seeds just under the surface of the soil. When the seeds start coming up, I thin them slightly so that all the little plants have room to grow (Shepard's has good thyme seeds). When the soil warms up, I plant them outside. I start my plants inside under a metal halide light, and really have excellent success with this method. I have a nice little thyme border around the edge of one of my raised beds. I think replacing older plants is the way to go. I also wonder about the quality of your soil. I know lots of herb books say herbs thrive in rotten soil, and have better flavor, but I don't accept this advice. I agree that for good culinary flavor, you shouldn't overfertilize, but plants need decent soil. I wonder whether you need to make any efforts to improve your soil?

Since I've never had a bit of a problem with regular thyme, it's hard to say that creeping thyme is easier to grow, but certainly it's easy to grow. I think it does better in cracks and crevices, rather than in a regular garden. Also, in my opinion (and taste is all so personal) it has inferior flavor for culinary purposes.

From: Russell Hansen <Russell.Hansen.QED.QLD.GOV.AU>

> I'll try transplanting it. If it dies it's no worse than it is now. If I grow new common thyme should I use a small plant to start or seeds? Also whats a creeping thyme? Does it taste the same? You said it was easier to grow so maybe thats the solution.

I think Laurie must have a green thumb as I dread the thought of starting Thyme from seed, but then I guess I've never really thought of it. Seedlings are so easy to get here, that we almost never start from seed, unless we want bulk quantities of a particular plant.

When I said creeping thyme, there are several varieties (of which I can only remember one). At the moment we're growing a variegated lemon thyme which grows more like peppermint than thyme. The leaves are fairly fat and juicy (compared to garden thyme) and have a distinct lemon scent. I did grow one other thyme with a similar, prostrate habit, but I can't remember its variety. It was similarly lush as the lemon thyme and they make nice attractive, scented ground covers. I've never tried to use them for culinary purposes. AS long as you keep the water up to them, they grow like weeds.

Now why I said they're easier to grow than garden thyme is because they grow so much it's easy to take cuttings to propogate them, or even just break off bits that have rooted and you've instantly got another plant. I compare this to the bushy, garden thyme which isn't so profuse so there is less plant to propogate, plus the fact I find it hard to cut woody, dry stemmed branches.

Maybe I'm wrong, that's just the way it's worked out for me, IMHO

From: Laurie Otto <lotto.PTIALASKA.NET>

On the thyme-growing issue and what to do with an old an not very thriving plant, I just thought of something else. Thyme does really well with layering as a propogation method. By this I mean that you take a long branch of the plant and cover the middle of the branch with dirt. It will take root where it is buried and you have a new plant.

And Russell, if you lived in Alaska where plant selection is limited, you would, like me, wax eloquent about seed starting. It's a lot easier than it seems, and it lets you grow a lot of varieties that you can't get around here. I also agree with you that lemon thyme is WONDERFUL!

From: Cathleen Kimball <CKimb28370.AOL.COM>

Thyme is so easy to start from seed why not just start some new every few years to keep your supply abundant. The plant will naturally wear out after 3-4 years and really seems to do best for me on the second year.

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