Thyme- A Precious Commodity

If you happened to have grown up in the South, like me, you grew up in a region known for its comfort food- chicken & dressing, chicken & dumplings, meatloaf- all GREAT food!  One of the main herbs used to flavor such good food is thyme.

For me, it was surprising to see that Thyme is classified as a Southern European and Mediterranean ingredient.  I thought it was totally southern cooking.  When you think of decidedly southern dishes such as Chicken n’ Dumplings, Turkey & Dressing, Roast Chicken, Meatloaf, and so on, Thyme is a key player in creating the warm comforting tones of these dishes.  If I am boiling chicken for almost anything, I have Thyme in the pot, too.  Nothing beats the flavor of a lightly battered filet of Tilapia with Thyme mixed in the flour and cornmeal, I don’t care who you are- that is good right there!

Thyme has been used throughout the ages for flavoring as well as medicine. This herb that has a delicate appearance is a hardy perennial that does very well in container gardens and flowerbeds. The creeping variety has been spreading between the rock stepping stones in my herb garden for months.  I must harvest it or it will cover the stones.  It is fabulous!  With dark green foliage that is so petit it belies its strong flavor, it is a perfect choice for edging the bed or filling in between the stones.

Being that Thyme is a perennial, it is easiest to start with a seedling in the garden.  Soggy places are no good for Thyme as it likes will drained soil.  In my gardens thyme is growing in the sun and in the shade, but a little afternoon shade in a Texan or any other very hot summer is greatly appreciated.  This is an extremely easy plant to grow.

With Thyme being available in the garden year-round, there is no reason not use fresh Thyme in all your cooking.  Just snip off what you need and chop it finely or tie the sprigs together with kitchen twine and remove before serving.  Thyme is a well-mannered herb and is not given to being over-powering in a dish.  To a roasted chicken, I will sprinkle about 2 teaspoons over the skin or add about 2 tablespoons to a pot of soup.  Your personal tastes really are the determining factor in how much to use.  Experience is the best teacher, so give it a try.

As easy as it is to use fresh, some days it may not be very convenient to get to the garden, so I like to keep dried herbs in the pantry. To dry Thyme, cut as much as you want from the plant- but never taking more than two thirds of the mother plant- and using a rubber band, secure the stems and hang in a dry place with good air circulation.

I have a little “clothes line” strung above my refrigerator where I clip bunches of herbs for drying.  Once dry, which will take about 2 weeks, remove the leaves from the stems and place the leaves in an air-tight container and store out of the sunlight.  Dried herbs keep for about 6 months and any extra you may have make great gift ideas.

Now, as I mentioned at the beginning, thyme also has many medicinal properties.  Thyme is a great aid for digestive troubles and helps to boost the immune system.  With the lovely flavor of thyme, an herbal tea made from thyme is very pleasant and soothing.  If you are fighting off a cold or virus, a chicken broth simmered with garlic and thyme is a powerful immune booster.

Thymol, a primary component of thyme oil is valued for its disinfecting properties, as an effective treatment for skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema, as an inhalant to treat septic sore throat from scarlet fever and ringworm. The disinfecting properties of thyme is said to be up to 12 times as powerful as carbolic acid- an ingredient found commonly in cleaning products and disinfectants.

Carbolic Acid: Also called carbolic acid, hydroxybenzene, oxybenzene, phenylic acid. a white, crystalline, water-soluble, poisonous mass, 6 H 5 OH, obtained from coal tar, or a hydroxyl derivative of benzene: used chiefly as a disinfectant, as an antiseptic, and in organic synthesis.

I don’t know about you, but I will take thyme any day over that!

All herbs have folklore associated with them and Thyme is no different. It is said to be the favorite herb of fairies.  If you have ever had the pleasure of seeing thyme in bloom, you would agree that fairies would love those dainty little flowers.  Thyme is also linked to love.

There are many varieties of thyme and all of them GREAT!  Lemon Thyme is one of my favorites and is always growing in my gardens.  Pennsylvania Dutch Tea, Silver Queen, Mother of Thyme, Pink Chintz, and Upright thyme are all great varieties to have around!



This herb was a key ingredient in this love potion:

“Take marigold flowers, a sprig of
marjoram, thyme, and a little wormwood; dry them before a fire, rub them
to powder, then sift it through a fine piece of lawn; simmer these with
a small quantity of virgin honey, in white vinegar, over a slow fire;
with this anoint your stomach, breasts, and lips, lying down, and repeat
these words thrice:–
‘St Luke, St. Luke, be kind to me,
In dream let me my true love see!’
This said, hasten to sleep, and in the soft slumbers of night’s repose,

the very man whom you shall marry shall appear before you.”

As you can see, thyme is definitely an herb you want growing in your garden or pot!  With such charm, powerful medicinal properties, and fantastic flavor- Thyme is a winner!