Spotlight on Thyme
Latin name(s) - Thymus vulgaris
Description - Thyme is a shrubby perennial plant that grows six to twelve inches high. It has narrow, pale grey/ green leaves with a pungent, woody aroma. A native of the Mediterranean, it grows best in areas where there is plenty of sun and good drainage. Drought conditions tends to concentrate the oil, producing a more powerful flavour.
Attributed medicinal qualities - Thyme is said to have the following properties: antibacterial, antifungal, hangover cure, get rid of warts, treat sciatica, treat gout, ease stomach cramps, reduces inflammation of the liver, eases coughs and lung problems, treats whooping cough, treats colds and flu, treats athletes foot, helps against insomnia, eases depression.
The use of thyme has been recorded as far back as 3000 BC when it was used as an antiseptic by the Sumerians. Because of its antiseptic qualities thyme was one of the herbs and spices used in ancient Egypt to keep mummies fresh for the afterlife.
The Romans also associated thyme with courage and bathed in water prepared with thyme to ready themselves for battle.
The hills of Greece are covered with wild thyme, and thyme honey from the tiny pink and lavender blossoms is plentiful.
Cultivation - Thyme is a perennial herb. Most varieties of time grow to only six to twelve inches in height, and they make an attractive edging for the perennial border. Leaves are grey-green in colour, and pale pink, mauve flowers bloom at the tips of the stems in summer.
You can start thyme from seed.
It prefers a sandy, dry soil with plenty of sun. If your soil is acidic, add some lime.
If you live in a very cold climate, protect the plants in winter by mulching heavily.
Once established, the only care will be regular pruning of the plants to remove old wood.
Taking off dead flowers will help to prolong the flowering period.
To dry, cut the stems just as the flowers start to open and hang in small bunches.
Harvest sparingly the first year.
Culinary Uses - Thyme has a strong piquant or lemony flavour, but it blends nicely with many other herbs, without overpowering them. Remove the thyme leaves from the stem and chop finely if necessary before using. When cooking with thyme be sure to add it early in the process so the oils, and thus the flavour, has time to be released, it also reduces any bitterness. For fresh use, the flavour is best just before flowering.
Thyme enhances the flavour of meat, fish and poultry.
It's a nice addition to marinades; bruise fresh sprigs of thyme and tarragon, and combine with red-wine vinegar and olive oil.
Thyme can also be used in herb butters and added to cottage cheese
Thyme is best known as one of the primary components in a classic bouquet garni.
It is also a key element in the traditional, dried, aromatic blend Herbes de Provence. Experts disagree as to exactly which herbs should be included, but all agree that thyme and lavender are essential.
Veggie Stock: - Chop into small chunks and roast 1 Onion, Leek, Carrot, Celery Stick, in oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Put in pot with water covering up to 2 inches. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon celery salt and garlic (optional) 1 teaspoon dried thyme, lemon thyme or 3 teaspoons if fresh. Add any leftover of tired vegetables. Bring to boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Strain and use the broth for soups, marinating or add it to gravy or other savoury sauces to flavour.
A stronger tea can be useful as a mouthwash or rinse to treat sore gums.
"Those herbs which perfume the air most delightfully, not passed by as the rest, but, being trodden upon and crushed, are three; that is, burnet, wild thyme and watermints. Therefore, you are to set whole alleys of them, to have the pleasure when you walk or tread." Francis Bacon
"Pun-provoking thyme." William Shenstone