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Thyme for taste!

Herb snips


Thymus is an herb with several hundred species. You can fill your garden with thyme plants that look, smell and taste different from one another. Thymus vulgaris, (garden thyme) is the standard for cooking. It tastes like a peppery cross between clove and oregano. Some tasty variations are lemon, lime, caraway, and orange. These may have only subtle differences, but the flavor and scent will persuade you. Some varieties are for ornamental use only. The creeping thymes, which carpet the ground with a profusion of flowers, fall into this category.

Fossil remains from five million years ago show imprints of recognizable thyme species. Over this long period it has become diversified. Thymus vulgaris can have bisexual flowers, which encourage cross-pollination and variation among the offspring. These factors make this fascinating plant's multiformity more understandable.

The Romans flavored cheeses and liqueurs with it, while the Greeks applied it as an antiseptic to wounds. French, Spanish, and Italian shepherds for generations have grazed their sheep on hillsides of thyme to flavor the meat. During WWI its essential oil served as a battlefield antiseptic.

Thyme is a perennial in Tehachapi. It bursts forth in the spring and often persists through the winter. Thymus vulgaris and its variations grow to about fifteen inches high and two feet wide. It has whorls of tiny pink, white or lavender flowers. If you cut it back before it flowers it will rebloom and be less woody. This is a good time to dry or freeze the leaves for later use. Most thyme species do well with six hours of sun a day, good drainage, and average water. I suggest you grow several of the edible varieties, and a ground cover such as mother of thyme. A mature ground cover can be walked on and is splendid between stepping stones, or as a lawn substitute. It further serves in the garden by repelling white flies.

Culinary experts agree that thyme effectively marries other flavors without overpowering them. I use it often because it is so versatile. It adds pizzazz to a dish that is missing a little "something". Try some the next time your recipe needs a slight adjustment. Typical of most herbs, you need at least three times as much of the fresh as the dry. The general rule is one tablespoon of fresh or one teaspoon of dried for a recipe that serves four people. It adds piquancy to stuffings, soups, stews, meats, vegetables, eggs, cheeses and butter. Lemon and lime thymes add a spark to fish, chicken and sugar cookies.

Are you in need of a natural source of iron? The USDA reports that there are about five milligrams of iron in a tablespoon of dried thyme. It is also rich it vitamin A, potassium and magnesium. It aids digestion and stimulates poor appetites due to the presence of flavonoids.

Ingesting large amounts of thyme is not recommended if you are pregnant, or have any reaction to the herb. The volatile oil in thyme contains thymol and carvacrol. These components are responsible for the herbs potent medicinal actions. If you are taking medications or receiving treatment, check with your caregiver about the possible contraindications. The amount of thyme used in cooking is NOT a safety concern.

The essential oil has antiseptic and antibacterial qualities, which make it indispensable in the cosmetic industry. It is utilized in the production of toothpaste, mouthwash, soap, detergents, colognes and lotions. Its antispasmodic and anti inflammatory qualities makes it essential in cough drops and inhalants.

Thymus is a large family of plants that has proven itself resilient, tasty and multipurpose. Such variety has to please the gardener, cook and natural health enthusiast. I am sure there is at least one plant suited to your needs and interests. It is time to give this multi use herb a chance to enhance your garden, kitchen and health. Contact me through my website at with thymely suggestions.


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