Native to the western Mediterranean, thyme is also widely cultivated. The most commonly encountered variety, Thymus vulgaris, is now found fresh on most cold produce shelves. Thyme comes in multitudes of varieties, many of which are wonderfully suited for use in the kitchen. It is a perennial, and will survive most winters, coming back year after year to beautify the garden and grace the table. It loves full sun and well drained soil. Some varieties are wonderful for framing walkways, releasing their warm, spicy fragrance when brushed, or for planting between edges of a raised bed. It is a beautiful ground cover. Thyme flowers profusely all summer and different varieties flower from white to pale pink and deep rose. Multiple varieties planted together yield a beautiful bed. Those that lend themselves more to beautifying a garden bed are Wooly Thyme; its wooly leaves, giving it a grayish green look, and Creeping Thyme, similar in its creeping habit. These two grow absolutely flat to the ground and climb up the sides of rocks.
Thymus vulgaris will grow to be about a foot tall, with upright growth habit. It has stiff and mostly straight stems, and leaves are easily stripped to add to dishes being cooked. Whole sprigs can also be dropped into a pot, and removed later, as with a bouquet garni. The leaves of the thyme plant are tiny, with varying shapes or colors, depending on the variety. Thymus vulgaris has tiny, darker green and more leathery leaves. Some types such as lemon thyme have variegated green and golden yellow leaves with a lemony scent and flavor. These are well suited to chicken or fish dishes. Broad leaf thyme, as the name implies, has wider and rounder leaves. Nutmeg thyme is variegated and has a scent of nutmeg. Mother of Thyme has a softer look and a more sprawling habit. The stems are far softer and the flowers are pink.
It can be easy to think of a garden as being nothing more than an outdoor space, and somewhere to have pretty flowers and plants on show. However, increasingly this isn’t the case, as many gardeners turn to the wide variety of herbs to add aroma, color and, most importantly, edibility to what they are growing.
With so many types of herbs to choose from however, it can be difficult deciding just what to go with in your garden. There are a few favorites though which, are not only used in many forms of cooking, but can be incorporated effectively and effortlessly into existing borders and plant containers.
One of the widest herbs in common use today is parsley, which can be used both as an ingredient in its own right, (for salads, soups and the like), a rich giver of flavor in many sauces, or simply as a garnish. There are two type available; flat leaf and curly leaf; both of which can be grown easily enough.
A biennial herb, it will need to be replaced every couple of years, but it will thrive well throughout its cycle. Young leaves can simply be cut off with a pair of scissors, and the growth will regenerate very quickly. Areas with a rich and nutrient soil are best, but the regular addition of liquid fertilizer will help immensely.
Another popular herb is basil. This is a delicate, annual, herb which will need to be replaced each year. It needs to be kept in quite mild temperatures, and protected from strong winds and the worst of the weather.
It is excellent eaten simply on its own with tomatoes, but also can help make great sauces and is an excellent addition to many an Italian pasta dish.
Parsley and basil are two of the soft herbs available which will not thrive outside in the garden throughout the winter months. However, if you have a warm area inside, you could keep them through the colder months, and replant the following spring.
There are a number of more resilient herbs available, which are also easy to grow in the garden, and will stand up to much more extremes in the weather.
One such herb in this regard is thyme. Delicately flavored leaves sprout from a wooden stem which should not be eaten, (but can be used to flavor sauces and gravies). Being a perennial herb, you will find thyme returning to your garden each year, with no work really required from you.
Rosemary too is another excellent perennial to grown. With a wonderful aroma at all times, it can be incorporated into a wide area of cooking; particularly lamb and potatoes. Rosemary will grow well in most garden types, and will simply blend in with existing plants without dominating
There are many other herbs to grow, and you should have a go and see what works best in your garden. They can be frozen and dried quite easily too, so growing herbs will see you have flavorsome meals throughout the year.