Although its growing season is in the warmer months, thyme is the perfect choice for the winter herb garden. Not only is it very frost hardy but it also copes with dry conditions, and the low-growing varieties can give you a groundcover that stays green even in the coldest months. It’s an essential ingredient in many winter soups and stews, and its strong antiseptic and antifungal properties mean you have a potent home pharmacy on tap!
One of the easiest herbs to grow, thyme only needs full sun and friable, free draining soil that tends towards the sandy side. Constant picking will keep it in shape and drenching it with a liquid fertiliser once or twice a month in the growing season is a good idea if you are harvesting constantly. It can become woody, but never prune it hard before winter. In spring you can divide older plants that have become leggy, making sure each piece has some foliage and roots.
Your winter friend
The herbalist’s thymes, common thyme and lemon thyme, add flavour to almost every kind of dish, with lemon thyme being the most useful. Being a robust herb, it can withstand long cooking in warming casseroles, stews and roasts. Medicinally, thyme is a powerful antiseptic and tonic that strengthens the lungs, and can be used as a remedy when treating throat and chest infections such as bronchitis and whooping cough.
To make a single dose, take 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme and add it to a cup of boiling water. Let it stand for 5-10 minutes, then strain and drink. Take 3-4 doses per day. For an even more powerful infusion, you can add some fresh parsley for vitamin C, yarrow to lower fever and hyssop, which works as an expectorant.