Want to learn how to dry and preserve thyme? With this simple method, you can do a year’s supply in one attempt! Let me show you how to dry thyme sprigs in bulk for your country style cooking.
Home grown herbs have had a special place in my heart (and kitchen) since I began cooking so much from scratch.
And while I totally believe that quality food ingredients are the key to preparing tasty dishes, quality herbs and spices are the key to perfecting them.
So I’ve spent the past several years establishing herbs in my little but adorable kitchen garden. While annuals have their place, I primarily put in perennial varieties that will return year after year with little effort on my part.
Interested in starting a perennial herb garden? Get my guide to choosing perennial herbs HERE.
One of the “must haves” on my list is thyme. This herb pairs well with everything, it seems. Tomatoes. Potatoes. Red or white meats. Soups and stews.
The only problem is? Thyme isn’t easy to put up. It’s tiny little leaves are difficult to separate from the stems, and there aren’t many leaves on a stem, which means you have a lot of bulk to deal with.
That’s why I gave up using a dehydrator to dry thyme. I even gave up on hang drying it in bundles!
This year, I decided to use my brains and find a way to dry thyme sprigs faster and with less hassle. Here’s what I discovered about drying thyme in bulk!
Things You’ll Need
a basket or round tray of flat wicker
2 baking pans or trays
jar with lid for storage
In this case, a basket with flat wicker and a loose weave is the secret to drying thyme and quickly sorting stems from leaves. I found mine at a local thrift shop and actually couldn’t find a replica online.
The closest I got was a wicker tray (see HERE). It doesn’t have walls like a basket, but it should filter stems from leaves in the exact same manner!
How to Dry Thyme Sprigs in Bulk
Harvest your thyme in the morning, before the sun’s heat evaporates natural oils and weakens the flavor. Established thyme has tough, woody stems, so I like to use a pair of pruning shears (instead of kitchen scissors) for harvesting.
When you harvest, take all but the bottom 1/2-1 inch of stem. Shear it close to the ground so next time you take thyme, you don’t have extra dead stalks to sort through.
Bring your thyme indoors and fluff it up in the basket. Set your basket on a baking pan or tray and leave it to dry in a warm, undisturbed place.
You can cover the top of the basket with a cloth to protect it from dust if you like. But I don’t bother!
After 2-3 weeks have passed, go ahead and test your thyme to see if it’s dry and ready to be removed from the stalks.
Test it by rubbing a few sprigs between your fingers. Do the tiny leaves coming off easily, or do they still cling to the stems? If they come off, the basket is ready for sorting. And if they don’t? Give the sprigs another week and test again.
Most of the thyme leaves should easily roll away from their stems, if ready.
Gather up one handful of dry thyme sprigs and working over the basket, rub them between your fingers. Once the sprig has had most of the leaves removed, toss the woody part into the compost.
Do another handful. And another, until all the sprigs are done.
And this is the part I love! Holding the basket over the pan or tray, gently shake it. The basket will act as a sieve and let the tiny leaves slip through.
Throw out stems that were held back and “sieve” the leaves several times to further capture woody bits.
As you can see in the image below, your basket won’t do a perfect job and some fine stems will still manage to get through, even after a few filterings.
Spread the leaves out on the pan or tray and quickly pick them over by hand. Most of the fine stems will be on top and are easy to remove.
And then, you’re ready to jar your thyme for use!
When should I dry thyme?
Home grown thyme should be harvested before it starts flowering in the summer. If you do cut it back early in the year, this low growing perennial shrub can give you several harvests in one year.
Do you wash thyme before drying?
I never wash my thyme before drying it, simply because it isn’t necessary with my method of gardening (mulch keeps dust down)! But if you want to, feel free. Just make sure sprigs are relatively dry before putting them in the basket for long-term drying.
How do you know when thyme is dried?
Thyme is fully dry and ready for storage when the tiny leaves come off the stems when gently rubbed between thumb and forefinger.
How to store dried thyme?
Once it has dried, thyme should be stored in an airtight container or bag to maintain freshness. My personal favorite is to store thyme in a mason jar in the freezer. It really helps maintain a fresh flavor.
I will remove small portions from the freezer to fill my smaller spice jars by the kitchen stove.
How long does dry thyme last?
If stored in an airtight container at room temperature, thyme will last indefinitely. But the flavor will start to weaken after 6 months. Most home cooks try to use up their spices in 12 month’s time.
When stored in the freezer, thyme will hold it’s fresh flavor for 5+ years.
What is dry thyme used for?
Don’t get me started! 😉
Thyme is delicious when sprinkled over baked potato wedges, in tomato sauces, soups, on fish, chicken or steaks. It’s one of those versatile herbs that goes well with just about anything!
How to Dry Thyme Sprigs in Bulk for Preserving
2 baking sheets or trays
mason jar with lid
Harvest thyme in the morning, before the sun's heat evaporates natural oils in the leaves.
Cut these low-lying shrubs close to the ground, leaving 1/2-1 inch of stem behind.
Place herbs in a basket and bring them indoors to a dry, warm place.
Set your basket on a baking sheet or tray to catch leaves that drop and leave undisturbed to dry.
Test your thyme after 2 weeks by rubbing several sprigs between your fingers.
If leaves easily fall off, they're ready. If not, leave for another week before testing.
When thyme is ready, work over your basket (leave it on the tray) and remove leaves by gathering bunches and rubbing them between your fingers.
Throw woody stems aside and continue removing leaves until you're through.
Lift the basket and set on a second baking sheet or tray.
Dump the leaves into the basket and gently filter them through 2-3x.
Spread thyme out flat on a tray and pick out the fine stems that filtered through.
Put thyme in a jar and cover with an airtight lid.
Store in a dry place and use in 6-12 months or freeze for long-term flavor.