Bruce Burnett, CH
Thyme grows well in most climates and prefers a light, sandy, well-drained, dry soil in full sun. It is one of the easiest herbs to grow in containers on an apartment balcony, but is quite susceptible to root rot and fungal disease if grown in soil that is too moist or heavy.
Pun-provoking thyme is one of the most popular and commonly used culinary herbs.
It grows well in most climates and prefers a light, sandy, well-drained, dry soil in full sun. It is one of the easiest herbs to grow in containers on an apartment balcony, but is quite susceptible to root rot and fungal disease if grown in soil that is too moist or heavy.
Thyme does not require fertilizer and grows well with lavender and sage. This herb will attract bees to your garden and it will repel cabbageworms. Thyme can be propagated by seed, cuttings, root division or layering. Its fine root system makes it more difficult to transplant than most herbs. It should be moved well in advance of any risk of freezing. A layer of sand applied on the soil will help protect the delicate roots from frost.
Common thyme (T. Vulgaris), is the most preferred species for use in the kitchen and in the essential oil industry. Common thyme includes both English–or German or winter thyme–and the narrower leafed French thyme. The latter is the sweeter of the two and certainly preferred in French cuisine. Both are perennials, but the French thyme is less robust than the English variety and may require some winter protection.
Thyme has inspired poets from Virgil to A.E. Housman, who wrote in A Shropshire Lad, "...Among the springing thyme, / Oh, peal upon our wedding, / And we will hear the chime."
The word thyme may be derived from the Greek word thymon, meaning courage. To the Greeks, thyme exemplified graceful elegance and "to smell of thyme" was an expression of urbane tribute. After bathing, the Greeks would use the essential oil of thyme for massage.
The Romans bathed in thyme water to energize themselves. During the Middle Ages, knights were given sprigs of thyme by their ladies as tokens of courage before they went into battle.
Sumerian cuneiform tablets dating back to 2750 BC mention thyme mixed with pears and figs as a medicinal poultice. The ancient Egyptians used thyme for embalming and St Hildegard recommended the herb as a treatment for leprosy, paralysis and "excessive" body lice. A moderate number of body lice were perfectly acceptable we presume.
An old Irish legend claims that if you wash your eyes with the dew from thyme on the morning of May 1st then you will be able to see the fairies.
Today, thyme's well-documented antiseptic and tonic qualities make it the ideal immune system booster. It is particularly effective for chest infections such as bronchitis, whooping cough and pleurisy. Thyme may be taken as a tea. Also, check with your local health food store to see if they stock a natural cough syrup using thyme. The essential oil of thyme must not be taken internally. Some herbalists recommend a handful of dried thyme–in a porous bag or cheesecloth–added to bath water to ease back spasms.
Thyme is indispensable in French cuisine and in bouquet garni (a bunch or bag of herbs for seasoning). The best cooks prefer to work with fresh herbs, but of course this is not always possible. When working from a recipe, remember that one tablespoon of a fresh herb translates into one teaspoon of the dried variety.
Thyme enhances wonderfully the flavor of beta-carotene vegetables such as carrots, squash and sweet potatoes. Boost your immune system with the following recipe.