Simply The Best Herbs-May

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I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
 Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
   Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
   With sweet must-roses, and with eglantine.
– William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

 

Spring has continued to be a roller coaster ride, and my garden is behind in flowers and too far ahead with weeds.  I am trying to ignore the weeds as I have little “time” to attend to them.  My work life still continues to be super busy as I move closer to retirement and freedom.  And as I thought about the next Simply The Best Herbs post, I thought I would pick another common herb that has a rich history, and is used today mainly for culinary purposes….. so I chose thyme.

I planted several varieties  of thyme last fall because I wanted them to spread in dry areas as a ground cover much like my original lemon thyme.  I love the delicate little leaves that pack such a wonderful aroma.  They have the appearance of a succulent like in the picture above when you view them up close.  I am linking in with Diana@Elephant’s Eye on False Bay for her meme, Dozen for Diana as I profile this wonderful herb.

 

Name

IMG_0890Thyme is several species of culinary and medicinal herbs of the genus Thymus.  The most common of these is Thymus vulgaris which is part of the Mint Family (Lamiaceae or Labiatae).  It has many common  names:  French Thyme, Shepherd’s Thyme, Common Thyme, Mother of Thyme, Garden Thyme, English Thyme.

Thymus comes from the Greek word thymon meaning courage.

 

 

About

Thyme is a perennial woody evergreen shrub native to central and northern Europe.  The 4-8 inch woody stems are covered with small gray-green leaves, and the flowers appear in late spring through summer.  Every part of the plant has an incredible aroma.  I have never seen flowers on my thyme, but I am not surprised given our climate.

There are over one hundred varieties of thyme that are so close in appearance they are hard to tell apart.  A few are pictured here:  Lemon thyme, Silver-Edge thyme, French thyme.IMG_1114

The Common Thyme is an cultivated form of the Wild Thyme that is found in countries bordering the Mediterranean.  This cultivated thyme is grown in temperate climates.

Thyme is best grown in a hot, sunny well-drained soil.  It is a good drought tolerant plant and dislikes too much moisture.  Thyme prefers light stony soils, but it will grow in heavy soils although they say it will not be as aromatic.  I have not found this to be the case.

Thyme can be propagated by seed, cuttings, or by dividing rooted pieces. The plants can take cold weather which is why they are found growing on mountains and survive my snowy cold winters. Be sure to keep the weeds cleared and give thyme plenty of room to spread.

 

 

Folklore

Some of the first documented uses of thyme dates back to 3000 BC, when it was used as an antiseptic by the Sumerians.  Also according to legend, it was collected outside of Bethlehem to make a soft bed for Mary during the birth of Jesus.

The early Egyptians used thyme as one of the ingredients in mummification, and Europeans during the Middle Ages used thyme during funerals to assure passage into the next life.

IMG_0386Greek and Roman soldiers put thyme in their bath as a charm for courage. In medieval times, thyme was used in drinks as a symbol of bravery. During the Middle Ages, European women embroidered a sprig of thyme on tunics for knights or gave them thyme leaves as a token of courage.

Wearing a sprig of thyme in a woman’s hair was reported to make her irresistible.  I’ll have to remember that!

Thyme was also worn to ward off evil and negativity. Romans used it to relieve depression. In the Middle Ages, placing a sprig of thyme under your pillow was said to keep away nightmares.

Thyme has been known for its soothing and gentle cleansing properties.   In the 16th century thyme was believed to cure sciatica and headaches. Also it was used as a disinfectant. Thyme in posies helped to ward off disease and to mask odors.

Fairies were thought to live in a bed of thyme.  Maybe I might catch a glimpse of them once my thyme grows in.

 

 

Uses

Thyme is one of the most widely-used culinary herbs. Given the right conditions it is easy to grow.  I grow it as a decorative and as a functional plant.

 

Culinary

Thyme is used to flavor stuffing, sauces, pickles, stews, soups, breads, vegetable and meat dishes, and even desserts.IMG_0380

The Spanish use it as an ingredient when they preserve olives.

Lemon thyme has a wonderful lemony fragrance that is good with fish.  I need to remember this an use some when I cook fish.

All varieties of thyme attract lots of bees.  They say honey from thyme flowers is delicious.

Thyme is sold both fresh and dried. Fresh thyme is more flavorful, but can only be stored up to a week once picked. Thyme retains its flavor when dried better than many other herbs.

The best way to remove the leaves is by scraping the stems with the back of a knife, or by pulling the stems through the tines of a fork.  I generally pull them by hand, but I am willing to try new methods.

 

Medicinal

During recent years thyme has been one of the most extensively used antiseptics.  Oil of thyme, the essential oil of common thyme (Thymus vulgaris), contains thymol which is an antiseptic, and is found in various products like mouthwashes. Before modern antibiotics, oil of thyme was used as a medicine on bandages. Thymol can also be found as an active ingredient in some all-natural, alcohol-free hand sanitizers.

IMG_0718A tea made by infusing the herb in water can be used for coughs and bronchitis.  It is also used to treat gout, headaches and stomach aches.  Historically, it was also used as a snakebite antidote.

Thyme yields fragrant oils and is used by perfumers for scenting soaps and sachets.

 

Garden

Thyme is a great companion for lavender. They both like the same growing conditions.  So I should consider planting more thyme in the front gardens where most of the lavender grows.

While bees love the flowers, other insects are repelled by thyme. To make a natural insect repellent, make a tea from the thyme, put it in a mister, and spray around your doorways and windows.  You can also burn the leaves to repel insects.  I will have to try both of these.  I’ll let you now how they work.

Thyme is also great to use in dried flower arrangements, bouquets, and potpourri.

 

 

Language of Flowers

Thyme is considered an herb of purification and protection. It symbolizes Activity, Courage, Strength, Happiness, Energy and Affection.

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Daisies smell-less, yet most quaint, / And sweet thyme true, / Primrose, first born child of Ver, / Merry Spring-time’s harbinger. ~Francis Beaumont

 

 
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Check out other posts in the series, Simply the Best-Herbs:

April-Mint

March-Common Yarrow

February-Chives

January-Lavender

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Come Join Us:

Seasonal Celebrations is a time for marking the change of seasons and what is happening in your part of the world during this time.  I hope you will join in by creating a post telling us how you celebrate this time of year whether summer or winter or something else.  Share your traditions, holidays, gardens and celebrations in pictures, poetry or words starting June 1st.

And it seems so appropriate to collaborate with Beth and her Lessons Learned meme.  What lessons have you learned this past season of spring here in the North and fall in the South.  Then tell us about your wishes, desires and dreams for this new season.The rules are simple.  Just create a post that talks about lessons learned and/or seasonal celebrations.  If you are joining in for both memes please leave a comment on both our blog posts.  Or if you are choosing to join only one meme, leave a comment on that blog post.  Make sure to include a link with your comment.

Beth and I will do a summary post of our respective memes on the solstice (the 21st of June).  And we will keep those posts linked on a page on our blog.  Your post should be linked in the weekend before the equinox to give us enough time to include your post in our summary.  And if you link in a bit late, never fear we will include it on the special blog page (which I still have to create).  The badges here can be used in your post.   So won’t you join in the celebration!!

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Next up on the blog:  June 1st means it is time for Seasonal Celebrations.  I hope you will join in.  Next Monday is another Gardens Eye Journal as I recap this crazy May and spring.

I am linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.

I hope you will join me for my posts once a month at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. See my most current post now.  Next one is up on May 28th.

As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’sFertilizer Friday.

Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2013.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

 

 

57 comments

  1. KL says:

    I love thyme. Though it is supposed to be perennial, but one has to be careful while buying it because some varieties are annual. I learned my lesson :-(. I recently got two types of thyme and they have such lovely pink tiny tiny flowers :-). I hope they will come back again next year.

  2. Karin/Southern Meadows says:

    Thyme grows readily in my garden, spready everywhere. Mine bloom every year too. I love rubbing my hands over it when I am out in the garden. Lemon thyme is my favorite. I’ve not thought about planting it with lavender but it makes good sense since they like the same soil. I will have to try that out!

    • Donna says:

      I wish thyme spread more but my garden is a bit too wet in many spots. I will have to watch mine but I have never seen blooms except on the creeping thyme on the patio.

  3. PlantPostings says:

    I LOVE the scent of Thyme! I’m not a big fan of it as a culinary spice, though. Thanks for the info about using it as an insect repellent. Wow, great idea!

  4. Andrea says:

    We are not much into herb use for the table, but i love growing herbs for the scents and aesthetics. I love those like yours with variegations, but at the moment i only have the local oregano, mint and rosemary.

    Thanks for your kind comments in my post.

    • Donna says:

      If only I could grow basil all year round. I do love growing thyme and using it in cooking, but dried thyme is so flavorful one doesn’t need to grow the herb. Glad you enjoyed the meander with thyme!

  5. Alistair says:

    So much interesting stuff on Thyme Donna. I have now told Myra about my mummification requirements. I am surprised that it flowers so freely here, yet not so with you.

    • Donna says:

      Well maybe it has been the crazy weather we have had the last few years that keeps the blooms at bay. Hopefully Myra is growing enough thyme for the future Alistair :0

  6. Loredana Donovan says:

    Lovely pictures and informative post about thyme. I should use it more often. I tend to use rosemary and oregano more as dry herbs, and parsley and basil as fresh herbs. I need to experiment! Thanks for the inspiration, Donna 🙂

    • Donna says:

      I love to use fresh herbs and all the ones you mentioned as they are so yummy and I love the scents from picking them. Happy to inspire!

  7. commonweeder says:

    I love thyme. I mostly have common thyme, and I am always transplanting pieces of it into the lawn. Thyme lawns are a tradition in England, after all.

  8. Donna says:

    I use thyme often in design, especially between paving. I looks great between natural stone. I grow it in my garden for cooking. I love lemon thyme… the fragrance.

  9. igardendaily says:

    Great post Donna! I love thyme too and have several varieties in my garden. Since I live in hot and dry, it grows great here. My new favorite thyme is thymus serpyllum ‘Elfin.’ Very tiny leaves and pink flowers. Makes a great green mat. Check it out if you don’t already have it and want another! 🙂

  10. Curbstone Valley Farm says:

    Thyme is definitely one of my favorite herbs. I grow mostly lemon thyme here, and I love to use it, freshly chopped, to roll small rounds of fresh made Chèvre in. The slightly citrus tang goes so well with fresh goat cheeses. Even if you don’t like the flavor, it’s fabulous addition the herb garden. Our bees are mobbing the thyme blossoms at the moment!

  11. Alberto says:

    Hi Donna, I love thyme in food and in the garden too. Sad you can’t see yours in bloom in your garden, I have a few plants of thymus lungicaulis (pepper thyme) which is a creeping form and I want it to grow in a carpet. When it flowers it is special and bees are crazy about it!
    I always use thyme when I cook big fish, I stuff the belly with lemon slices, garlic and thyme and then put it in the oven: simple and delicious!

    • Donna says:

      Alberto I love that recipe and will try it….that is what I love about Italian cooking….great use of herbs. I do have some creeping thyme but it doesn’t always flower. Maybe this year 🙂

  12. Cathy says:

    The first quote took me back to my school days, when I learnt this off by heart! I also remembered the fact that thyme was given to knights – a piece of lost information now retrieved! I have several different thyme plants, but the lemon definitely wins for flavour as well as colour. One type I have has already flowered (but is not so tasty – no idea why!). Thank you for another lovely post Donna!

  13. debsgarden says:

    I love thyme, though with my clay soil and humid conditions, it doesn’t love me back! I still plant it from time to time, and it will do OK for a season or two. Lemon thyme is my favorite.

    • Donna says:

      I find the few spots in my garden where it will grow since it is hard to grow it in my clay and harsh winters. I pray for its return every spring. Although creeping thyme grows just about anywhere I have found.

  14. Jean says:

    Thyme is one of those herbs I always have growing close to the kitchen door. My attitude toward it seems to be similar to my attitude toward garlic: whatever you’re cooking, throw some in! 🙂

    • Donna says:

      I should ty to do that a bit more with other herbs like thyme…I am planting more thyme around the patio and in the front with the lavender.

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