Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thyme (Garden Thyme) - Herb of the Week

Thyme is a versatile and multipurpose herb and it is actually a genus that includes many different species. Its medicinal properties make it a useful herb. Thyme is also used in various culinary preparations. In ancient times, this herb was used for embalming by the Egyptians.
So since Halloween just passed, I thought I would make the herb of the week Thyme (Thymus vulgaris.)
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.
In the Eastern Mediterranean countries, there is little distinction made between several aromatic members of the mint family, that include Oregano, Thyme, Marjoram, and Savory.  In fact, many Jordanian recipes simply call for zahtar (or zaatar), a blend of such herbs as may be available to the individual cook.
To Grow
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 is a perennial and will withstand a hard frost, to grow hearty and healthy the following spring. It likes sun and will tolerate full sunlight, although it will do OK in partial shade. It prefers well drained soil. It can be grown from seed, but I personally have had limited success with this, and find that transplants do much better for me.
The propagation of thyme is carried out by means of root division, seeds or cuttings. Propagation by seeds take a long time (about 1 yr.) and therefore, root division is the most preferred method as experts do not recommend cuttings for propagating thyme. Planting is usually done in the month of April. In order to carry out root division, the plant is dug up and roots are cleared off the soil. Roots are then cut in 4-5 pieces and used for plantation. Care should be taken to see that every root cutting has a portion of foliage with it.

To Use
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.

Although strong, it is not overpowering, and it blends well with other herbs and spices, both fresh and dried. Thyme retains its’ flavor in the drying process better than many herbs. A good source of Iron, Thyme is used widely in European and Mediterranean dishes. With over 100 different varieties, Thyme is on of the most widely used herbs in the world. There is a rule of thumb among many schools of cooking: “When in doubt, use Thyme.”  It is an important part of Herbs De Provence.

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.
Thyme Roasted Grapes   
 Delicious as a simple appetizer paired with sliced cheese, roasted grapes also work well when served as a side dish with chicken or turkey or with angel food cake and whipped cream for dessert. They're quick and easy to prepare, yet elegant enough for company.
1 pound red seedless grapes, rinsed with stems removed
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, striped from stems  or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
Pinch of salt and pepper (to taste)
1 Tablespoon honey

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  On a baking sheet gently mix grapes with the olive oil, fresh thyme leaves, salt and pepper.  Spread out mixed grapes into a single layer. Don't overcrowd the grapes on the sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees F, shaking the baking sheet occasionally until the skins begin to split, about 15 to 18 minutes.  Remove grapes from oven and drizzle with honey. Serve immediately or let grapes stand at room temperature until ready to serve.  As a side dish this serves 4.

Medicinal Uses
Medicinally Thyme has many uses. It has been used through the centuries as a remedy for many ailments, from epilepsy to melancholy. Nowadays, it is prescribed by herbalists for intestinal worms, gastrointestinal ailments, bronchial problems, laryngitis, diarrhea, and lack of appetite. It has antiseptic properties, and can be used as a mouthwash, skin cleanser, anti-fungal agent for athlete's foot and as an anti-parasitic for lice, scabies, and crabs. For skin inflammations and sores, make a poultice by mashing the leaves into a paste. Oil called thymol, obtained from this herb, acts as a disinfectant and antiseptic.
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 to be used once per day. Add honey as a sweetener, if desired.

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.
A paste of warm, moistened Thyme leaves applied to the affected area is recommended for the relief of pain from abscesses, boils or swelling. In fact, this has also been known to help sciatica and rheumatic pain. Anti-inflammatory anti-pain salves, made by infusing herbs in oils such as Olive Oil or Sesame Oil, often include Thyme for the ability of its volatile oil, Thymol, to deaden pain and quiet spasms. Because Onions are excellent anti-inflammatories, an Onion broth, with a handful of dried Thyme thrown in, will help with aching joints or muscles from arthritis or from flu. Heating Chopped Onions in some olive Oil, with Coarse Salt and Thyme, until golden, and applying the COOLED mixture to a bruised site, externally, is often also very soothing and effective, even on stubbed toes and twisted ankles.
Thyme Bath Herbs
This blend will help repel winter cold symptoms.
2 Tbls. Thyme
2 Tbls. Spearmint
2 Tbls. Peppermint
2 Tbls. Eucalyptus

Mix all ingredients together.  Place 2 Tbls of the mixture in a cloth bag or square of fabric.  Allow bag to soak in the tub before you get in then soak for about 20 minutes to let the herbs effect and relieve your cold symptoms.
NOTES: The essential oil of Thyme (Thymol) can cause adverse reactions if taken in it's pure form, so use Thyme-based medications sparingly. If taken in a tea, drink only once or twice per day, and if used on the skin, be aware that it may cause irritation.

Thyme one of the best medicinal herbs available to mankind. The culinary uses of this plant make it even more beneficial.  One should always include thyme in the herb garden in any of its 100 varieties and more if you can fit them.  Then you too can make use of its various benefits.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...