The word Thyme, came from the Latin word Thymum which came from the Greek word which meant to make a burnt offering or sacrifice. The ancient Greeks burnt it as incense in their temples, believing that Thyme was a source of courage. In ancient lore, Thyme was thought to have the ability to attract fairies. In the same way as Sage, it has been burned in many places throughout time to cleanse the air, protect from plague, and ward off evil spirits.
It is generally believed that the spread of Thyme throughout Europe was thanks to the Romans, as they used it to purify their rooms and to "give an aromatic flavor to cheese and liqueurs".
In the middle ages, Thyme was placed beneath pillows to aid sleep and ward off nightmares. At this same time, women would give sprigs of Thyme to knights as they went to battle, believing that the Thyme would bring them courage. Thyme was also included in coffins and burned at funerals, as it was believed to aid in the passage to the next life.
Thyme, a strong flavored member of the mint family, gets its flavor from an essential oil known as thymol, which is incidentally the main active ingredient in Listerine Mouthwash.
A slow growing ground cover, Thyme is a welcome addition to any well balanced herb garden. Thyme pretty much grows itself. In fact, the more you fuss with it, the less hardy it will be. Thyme is most fragrant and flavorful when grown in dry, lean soil. Too much moisture will rot the plants.
Thyme should be picked just when the flowers appear in order to get the sweetest leaves. Leaves need to be crushed in the hands before using them in any of the recipes. Thyme herb substitutes which could be used to add flavor to recipes are parsley, marjoram, and tarragon.
Culinary uses for Thyme therefore are too plentiful to count or name. It makes a nice complement to tomato sauces, cheeses, eggs and vegetables. It can also be used to flavor jellies, breads, vinegars, marinades, sauces and in bouquet garni. Holds its flavor in cooking and blends well with other flavors of the Mediterranean region, like garlic, olive oil and tomatoes.
Of course there are hundreds of Thyme recipes available. I shared a thyme shortbread cookie recipe back in February on my website. Here are a few simple ones:
8 oz. Philadelphia Cream Cheese
I Tablespoon freshly chopped Thyme
I Tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
1/2 Teaspoon finely minced garlic
Blend all ingredients thoroughly and roll into a 1" diameter log in wax paper. Refrigerate overnight. Slice into 1/4" wheels and serve on crackers.
Zucchini with Thyme
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 pound fresh zucchini, cut into 3-by-1/2-inch sticks
1 beef bouillon cube, crumbled (use vegetarian bouillon for vegetarian option)
1 teaspoon dried Thyme or 1 Tbsp fresh Thyme, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and butter on medium heat. Add the onion and parsley and cook until soft, but not browned. Add the zucchini sticks, crumbled bouillon cube, Thyme and a pinch of salt and pepper. Gently stir to coat the zucchini. Cover and cook until tender, from 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how tender the raw zucchini is to begin with, and how small you have sliced the pieces. Check and stir every few minutes. Be careful not to overcook.
This warming herb can help loosen and bring up excessive mucus during upper respiratory diseases or sinus problems, yet, because it has anti-spasmodic tendencies, it can reduce dry coughing. It is said to improve digestion and help reduce spasms; and reduce rheumatic and arthritic pain. To use Thyme as an anti-fungal agent or as a parasitic, mix four ounces of Thyme to a pint of alcohol, or buy the essential oil and use sparingly on the affected area. For bronchitis and gastric problems, make a tea by infusing the herb in water and take once per day. Add honey as a sweetener, if desired. Thyme is used for respiratory infections in the form of a tincture with alcohol, tisane (tea), salve, syrup or by steam inhalation.