Answer: In cooking you would generally use just the leaves of dried thyme, although the stems also have some fragrance and flavor and are occasionally used fresh as in "sprigs of thyme" tossed into the pot either as part of a bouquet garnis or simply loose as one might use a bay leaf. Since the plant is a perennial, you would trim off the stems, dry them as stems since it is easier to handle that way, and then strip the leaves off either just prior to storage in airtight jars or, if you leave it in bundles, just prior to use. Incidentally, thyme is best harvested just before it blooms (but any time will do in a pinch) by cutting it off rather short. The plant will regrow and can usually be harvested more than once a season. It is a fairly long-lived plant and can be left in place for years. To dry the thyme, make small bundles of stems and wrap them with a rubber band at the thick end. Then hang them by the rubber band in a dry and airy, well ventilated, dark spot until they are very dry. (The stems shrink as they dry and the rubber band will shrink with them so they don't fall on the floor.) When fully dry, store it in a dark dry place in a tightly closed container. To be sure it is dry, put some in a container and watch for a few days to be sure there is no condensation. If all is well, go ahead and store the rest. When you use it, remember that home grown herbs often have more flavor than store-bought. Enjoy your thyme.
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