Mechanical Harvestor for Thyme
Answered by: Richard Alan Miller
Question from: Michael Forde
Posted on: January 27, 1999

I am looking for a mechanical device to harvest the herb ‘THYME’. I am currently using grass shears to harvest this product from furrows 5’ wide. If you have any information that will assist me please advise.

I’m not sure if you are aware of it but there are some 400 different varieties of Thyme, many grown for commercial cultivation and markets. Most Thymes grow close to the ground, rarely forming shrubbery of any magnitude. The primary markets for Thyme are for the oil, via steam distillation.

As such the best form of harvest is via a rotary mower with a vacuum bag pick-up, somewhat like mowing grass in your yard. John Deere makes a variety of sizes and capacities in this regard, and one can put a system together easily to meet acreage and volume requirements. There are also a number of other rotary attachments from New Holland and other large vendors that run off a standard three-point hitch.

This is basic crop harvesting machinery, especially when the whole plant wants to be taken to the ground (like Thymes). The leaf and stem is then either taken to a still or drying shed for further processing. Most markets for Thyme are either as an ornamental in the horticultural trade, or as an oil for use in numerous pharmaceutical preparations.

At one time San Michele Winery used Thymes as an inter-crop between their vineyard arbors. It helped reduce thrip and nematode, while offering a second crop for land use. An unexpected bonus was that it also seemed to increase the natural "bricks of sugar" in the grape, helping San Michele win awards that year for best wine produced.

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