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Are All Thyme Plants Edible? (Explained)

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The thyme herb is an excellent addition to your menu. It has a vast range of uses, from culinary, to medicinal, down to ornamental.

As a gardener looking forward to having multiple varieties in your garden, you may wonder whether all thyme is good for consumption.

So, are all thyme plants edible? The thyme herb is overall an edible plant. Both leaves and flowers of thyme herb are edible for human and its insect pests. There are many different varieties of the plant, such as lemon thyme, creeping thyme, French thyme, and a lot of others. While all the varieties are edible, not all of them produce leaves sizeable enough to be eaten. Some of thyme varieties produce very small leaves and are better off when left as ground covers or companion plants to other garden herbs.

Are There Different Types of Thyme?

There are over three hundred different thyme varieties. Some serve different purposes from others. While some are best when included in meals, others best serve ornamental purposes. Meanwhile, others have a great role to play in the medicinal aspect.

Thyme herbs surprisingly have powerful health benefits, which most people are ignorant of.

Most people who plant and use the herbs only go for them because of their culinary benefits or its perks as a companion plant to other garden herbs.

Common Varieties of Thyme

There are over three hundred varieties of the thyme herb. Each has a mildly different fragrance from the other. As a gardener, it is necessary to know which variety best serves a purpose.

Below is a list of some common varieties of the thyme herb:

1. Elfin thyme:

Elfin variety of thyme produces the smallest size of leaves. It is also the slowest growing variety of the lot.  Although its minute leaves also possess a pleasant fragrance, they are more valuable as a ground cover than when used as a culinary herb.

2. Caraway thyme:

This variety doubles as both a culinary and an ornamental herb. Although its leaves are not as big as that of most culinary species, they are sizeable enough to be easily harvested and included in almost any recipe. Its bright pink flowers can as well add color and beauty to your herb garden.

3. Pennsylvania Dutch tea thyme:

this is arguably the most ideal variety to use in making thyme tea. The leaves and flowers of this variety can be used either fresh or dried to brew a herbal tea that provides the human body supplements.

4. Creeping thyme:

This variety is slightly distinct from most others. It is a charming ornament as well as a ground cover. It is more drought-resistant than most other varieties and can thrive even in poor soil conditions.

As the name implies, creeping thyme tends to spread out through the garden and does best when provided with adequate space to spread out.

5. Lime thyme:

Lime thyme is a culinary variety. It possesses an unmistakable lime-like fragrance that you can include in meals. Lime thyme can as well be brewed into a herbal tea.

6. Wool thyme:

It derives its name from the tiny hair like structures that cover its leaves. Woolly thyme is an excellent ground cover that grows into a sizeable carpet-like structure. It is seldom used in meals or for brewing tea.

7. Foxley thyme:

This variety produces broad leaves and bright purple flowers.  Its edible leaves are very soft, and the flowers provide amazing scenery in the garden, thus making it both a culinary and ornamental herb.

Growing any variety of thyme at all is pretty easy. Being a perennial, your thyme herb is sure to stay fresh in your garden for about three or four years. So, you can be sure of a year-round supply of fresh aromatic thyme leaves and flowers.

Thyme can be grown in gardens as well as in pots. It thrives in full sun and well-drained soil. Being a drought-tolerant plant, thyme cannot withstand excessively wet soils.

In such conditions, the roots will sooner or later begin to rot till the plant eventually dies off completely.

Which Thyme Plants Are Edible?

The thyme herb is edible in general, and no variety is harmful or poisonous to the human body. However, the different varieties of thyme can be segmented into two categories; culinary and ground cover.

While all varieties in both categories are edible, the leaves of those in the culinary category are more sizeable, easier to harvest, and highly aromatic than those in the ground-cover category.

Below is a list of some varieties in the culinary category:

  • Silver thyme
  • English thyme
  • Pennsylvania Dutch tea thyme
  • Orange balsam thyme
  • Caraway thyme
  • Foxley thyme
  • Lemon thyme
  • Hi-ho thyme
  • Italian oregano thyme.

Is Creeping Thyme Edible?

Creeping thyme falls under the ground-cover category of the thyme varieties. Its miniature leaves make it most suitable to serve as rock fillers or carpet-grass.

However, creeping thyme is edible. Its leaves have a mint-like flavor and can be used fresh and dry. You can use it to make soups, stews, and meat dishes; you can also flavor vinegar with it.

Harvesting the leaves of creeping thyme is done by simply pinching or snipping off the leaves from its stems.

The leaves can be preserved by drying or freezing. The stems of creeping thyme are edible as well, but not many people eat it as it seems a bit too woody.

Creeping thyme can also be planted as a companion plant to sage, iris, bee balm, yarrow, and some other garden herbs. They would help to deter and keep away pests that affect these plants.

It can as well be used as a lawn cover. However, you cannot cook with a plant that has been walked over. So, if you’re planting creeping thyme as ground or lawn cover, then do not include it in for cooking.

Conclusion

The thyme plant is a highly aromatic perennial grown mainly for its leaves and flowers. It is an edible spice that you can add to stews, meat dishes, soups, and other dishes. It can also be brewed into tea.

All varieties of the thyme plant are edible to man. None is poisonous.

Thyme can be grown both indoors and outdoors. Growing rhyme does not require much strenuous effort. All it requires is adequate sunlight, adequate moisture, and well-draining soil.

Reference

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