Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Lemon Thyme - Herb of the Week

Those who read this blog often know I am a sucker for lemon scented anything.  I love geraniums with a lemon scent, marigolds, lemon basil, lemon verbena and most assuredly lemon thyme.

So this week I chose
Lemon Thyme (Thymus citriodorus
            as the Herb of the Week.

This is another herb we will be featuring in the Plant Sale for the Men's Garden Club of Villa Park (yes, I belong to a "Men's Garden Club," obviously they allow women!) The plant sale is coming up soon May 8th & 9th from 9 am to 4 pm on the grounds of our meeting location the Lion's Club Recreation Center at 320 East Wildwood Dr. Villa Park, IL.  We have chosen a large selection of culinary and aromatic herbs to include in the sale this year and the prices are reasonable too!

I pretty much demanded that we have lemon thyme at the sale, because I cannot imagine a growing season without it and I lost much of mine in the last few years due to Polar vortexes and Spring flooding.

I should point out, however, there are a variety of Lemon Thyme -well varieties!

Varieties of Lemon Thyme

The most common is Traditional Lemon Thyme a green leaf variety with a lemon scent, but if you want to add a level of texture to your garden try some of the variegated varieties.

Traditional Lemon Thyme looks like English Thyme and grows like English Thyme but that is where the similarity stops. Lemon Thyme definitely smells like lemon and tastes like lemon. It can be used in any recipe calling for lemon juice, lemon zest or lemon flavoring. It grows like a weed so there is always more lemon waiting in the garden. Lemon Thyme added to marinade is great with fish or chicken. Lemon Thyme's glossy green foliage can be sheared to form one of the knots in a traditional knot garden.

Culinary Thymes, like Lemon Thyme, are small which make them perfect candidates for growing in a container. A window box planter or a hanging basket make lovely places to grow lemon thyme on your patio or windowsill.
silver lemon thyme
There is also Varigated Lemon Thyme Thymus Citriodorus variegata, sometimes also called Silver Lemon Thyme because the margins of the leaves are white.  This striking look of this thyme makes it a beautiful addition to a border and you can enjoy the same rich lemony flavors.  I like to alternate variegated and green thyme plants in the bed so this is a favorite.

This is a creeping thyme that needs full to mostly sunny locations to grow and a dry to moist but well drained soil.  If soil stays constantly soggy the plant will often die. It is deer and draught resistant and like most thyme plants is resistant to diseases.  It will get a lavender colored flower late in the season.  Creeping thyme means that  the plant grows out instead of up.  They height is never more than an inch or two, with a spread as wide as 18 inches in a year if given the opportunity to thrive.  Silver thyme is popular with butterflies, and song birds.

Silver Lemon Thyme is a wonderful, lemon scented, ground cover herb with tiny, showy silver variegated evergreen leaves on spreading stems that are smothered in stunning spikes of purple flowers with pink overtones from early to late summer. An ideal for culinary herb and cottage gardens as well as along walkways. 

Harvest leaves as needed, in the morning after dew has dried, before flowering in midsummer. The entire plant may be harvested by cutting plant leaving about 2 inches above the ground. The plant will recover before the end of the season; however, the plant may not be as winter hardy.
golden lemon
 There is also Golden Lemon Thyme.  With this one the margins are more yellow or gold than white.  Theere are a couple of varieties called golden both are Thymus Citriodorus one is 'Golden Lemon' another is 'Aurea'. 

Under any name a golden lemon thyme is a moderate growing herb and perennial plant that can be grown in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4A through 9B. It matures to an average width of 5 feet to 6 feet and an average height of 12 to 18 inches, depending on climate and other environmental factors. It prefers growing in a location that provides full sun and grows best when planted in sand, loam or silt soil that is well drained. In the summer Golden Lemon Thyme produces white and soft lavender flowers. The foliage is yellow and medium green in color. It attracts visual attention and is resistant to deer. If you like fragrance, Thymus Citriodorus 'Golden Lemon' has fragrant foliage.

Doone Valley
Doone Valley Thyme Thymus doerfleri is green throughout most of summer and fall, Doone Valley Thyme enters its variegated stage in the cool of Spring. Heavily scented of lemon, Doone Valley Thyme makes a nice little mat or mound for filling in and around taller plants. Each plant spreads to about 18 inches and produces 3 or 4 inch long flower heads full of pink flowers. If a flat ground cover is desired, these flowers should be sheared off after bloom. If they are left, the thyme will crawl over the spent flowers, adding height to the mound.

Doone Valley Thyme as hardy to Zone 6, but there have been some reported successes in Zone 5. It is helpful to mulch around ground cover thymes to fend off encroaching weeds until the plants can fully shade the ground from any light that might germinate weed seeds. When mulching, do not cover the plants; rather surround them with mulch and filter the mulch down into the thyme with your fingers.

Doone Valley Thyme is not a cooking thyme. The Lemon scent does not hold up in cooking as regular Lemon Thyme does. However, both the leaves and the blossoms can be used as brilliantly colored, fragrant garnish.

Pink Lemonade Thyme is a Mountain Valley Growers' introduction. It is unique because it is a non-variegated lemon scented ground cover thyme with profuse pink flowers. Most lemon scented varieties either have white flowers or bloom very little. Pink Lemonade Thyme has dark green, closely spaced leaves and is small enough to use in between flagstone and yet fast growing enough to cover larger spaces.  It is also nice because it blooms later in summer after many other thymes have finished. It will grow well in partial shade which is not always the case with thyme plants.

This thyme does not have a lemon flavor strong enough for use in the kitchen. For cooking, use Lemon Thyme, a tall prolific grower, full of citrus flavor. 
Archers Gold
Archer’s Gold Thyme, Thymus citriodorus  ‘Archers Gold’, is a low-growing, mat-forming evergreen perennial plant that has bright golden variegated foliage with a  nice lemon-scent. Light lavender flowers appear atop the foliage in summer. Honey bees love the flowers of this thyme plant!  We would say this is also a creeping thyme.

Archers Gold Thyme is excellent use as a groundcover or border along garden walkways, paths, and garden beds, or around rose beds. It is also a colorful accent in container gardeners. Tolerates light foot traffic so you can use it in between stones in your path too.
Very easy to grow, Archers Gold Thyme requires a well-drained average to poor soil. Contantly soggy or wet soil is problematic. Avoid overwatering!

Archers Gold Thyme is very low maintenance, deer resistant and very drought tolerant. Once established, plants will require little care. Wetting their leaves while watering will reduce their fragrance. Plants can be trimmed or sheared after flowering.  This plant is more hardy in Zone 5 than some of the other lemon scented thyme plants.

To Grow

It's hard to grow thyme from seeds because of slow, uneven germination. It's easier to buy the plants or take some cuttings from a friend. For a head start, plant the seeds/cuttings indoors 6 to 10 weeks before the last spring frost. Plant the seeds/cuttings 2 to 3 weeks before the last spring frost in well-drained soil about 9 inches apart. For best growth, the soil should be about 70ºF.  On average the plants should grow 6 to 12 inches in height. In the garden, plant thyme near cabbage and it helps both plants. (For more details on mulching and watering see the notes with each variety above.)

Water normally and remember to trim the plants. Prune the plants back in the spring and summer to contain the growth. You can take some cuttings in the fall and plant them indoors in pots, too. If you have cold winters, remember to lightly mulch around the plants after the ground freezes. Most Lemon thyme is not fuly hardy in Zone 5, so proper winter protection is a must.

Crispy Lemon Thyme Cutlets

1lb. Thin-sliced chicken cutlets
2 Eggs 
2 Tbls. Water
Olive oil
1 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 Lemon
Leaves of 6-8 lemon thyme sprigs
Salt and pepper to taste

Ready two bowls.  In one, add eggs and water and beat together.  In the second bowl add panko, the zest of your lemon, leaves from thyme sprigs, salt and pepper.  Stir to combine.

Pour olive oil into a large skillet and set over medium high heat.  One at a time, dip the chicken into the egg wash then the panko mixture.  Add to the hot skillet and cook 2-3 minutes on each side.
Remove from skillet, squeeze a little of the reserved lemon juice over the top and enjoy!

 Lemon Thyme Lemonade

1 tsp. dried Lemon Thyme
1 Quart (32 ounces) Lemonade
Honey to serve

This wonderfully soothing lemon drink is ideal for helping to ease a sore throat and it is simplicity in itself to make. Bring 1 quart of lemonade to the boil in a pan, to which you've added some dried lemon thyme leaves, turn off the heat and leave to steep for 10-15 minutes, add a teaspoon of honey and warm the drink through again if needed. Sip it slowly to soothe a sore throat and ease nasal congestion. In the summer you can add it to a glass of ice for a wonderful refresher.

Lemon thyme drizzle cake
This iced lemon cake is flecked green from the lemon thyme. You can adapt this recipe to rosemary, lavender or plain thyme in place of lemon thyme. Delicious on a summer's afternoon with a cup of tea.

¼ cup caster sugar
2 tbsp lemon thyme leaves, finely chopped
¼ cup butter, softened
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cup self-raising flour, sifted
A pinch of salt

For the icing
2 tbsp lemon thyme leaves, finely chopped
½ cup icing sugar, sifted
1 lemon
To decorate
A few sprigs lemon thyme with flowers, if available

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 2 cup loaf tin, line the base and ends with a strip of parchment and lightly grease. Make sure the lemon thyme leaves are not damp from washing before you chop them. Place in a food processor with the caster sugar and whizz until the sugar turns green and the leaves have been finely chopped.

Add the butter and lemon zest and whizz until fluffy, then gradually add the eggs. Mix in 1 tbsp lemon juice, then scrape into a bowl and fold in the flour and salt. Spoon into the loaf tin. Bake for 20 minutes, then loosely cover the top with foil if it is browning too quickly and bake for a further 20-25 minutes or until well risen and golden. Test by inserting a toothpick into the cake; if it comes out clean, the cake is cooked.

To make the icing, stir the finely chopped lemon thyme into the icing sugar and add enough lemon juice to form a thick icing. While it's still in the tin, transfer the cake to a wire rack. Leave for 5 minutes, then remove from the tin and spoon the icing over the top of the warm cake. It will drizzle down the sides. Leave to cool. Shortly before serving, decorate with the sprigs of lemon thyme.

Lemon Thyme Tea

2 cups water
1/2 tsp. fresh lemon Thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. honey

Bring water to a boil and remove from the heat. Add Thyme leaves and steep for 5 minutes. Strain into cups and add honey. Relax and enjoy.

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