It’s About Thyme
Thyme (Thymus spp.) is native to the sunny slopes of the Mediterranean and once grew wild from Spain to Siberia. The Greeks and Romans considered thyme a symbol of courage and style; they flavored cheese and wine with the pungent herb and bathed in thyme-scented baths before going into battle. During the Crusades, ladies embroidered sprigs of thyme on the sleeves of their knights to keep them brave.
The Sumerians wrote of thyme’s antiseptic properties 3,000 years ago. They stepped on it as a strewing herb and burned it in homes and public buildings to cleanse the air and ward off illness. Today, it is an effective ingredient in toothpaste and cough medicine and is used in aromatherapy to treat respiratory ailments.
In culinary circles, thyme is of the greatest essence. Its tiny leaves, fresh or dried, liven up salads and enhance the flavor of meat, fish, and poultry. Along with parsley, savory, and marjoram, it makes up the traditional French herbal mixture bouquet garni used to enhance the flavor of soups, sauces, and stews. All thymes are edible and many have their own unique flavors. Use orange or lemon thyme to add a citrus taste to seafood, caraway thyme for breads and meat, and lavender thyme to lend flavor and aroma to soups and casseroles.
As versatile in the garden as they are in the kitchen, the dozens of thyme varieties fill a number of roles. Their foliage may be bright green, gray, or yellow, and their spicy flowers range in color from purple to pink to white. Tall varieties like French thyme grow to more than a foot high and can be pruned into a fragrant hedge or tucked in between shrubs or perennials to fill empty spaces in a planting bed. Wooly thyme and creeping thyme, which grow only two inches high, thrive in dry, sunny spots and are perfect for use as a ground cover or a rock garden plant. Planted between the stepping-stones of a garden path, they perfume the air when walked upon.
Thymes are easy to grow, asking only for a sunny spot and well- drained soil that is slightly on the dry side. Plus, if you’re a gardener who also likes to cook, you will find that there is never enough thyme.