Thyme: Cooking, Health Benefits, Gardening

Thymus serpyllum

Sometimes the wonderful scent of thyme enriches my summer walks through dry meadows, dunes, or pine forests. This sun-loving herb grows as a low-growing mat with thick clusters of purple-pink blooms and requires at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily to thrive. Thyme blossoms are particularly beloved by bees, as they yield a lot of honey.


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Thyme is a mint family herb with culinary, medicinal, and ornamental uses. It is popular in Lithuania and other European countries. When dried and collected, the herb emits an aroma that reminds me of summer, just what I need in the winter months. Thyme is not a spice I use for cooking, but when I have a cold or a wet cough, I drink warm and aromatic dried thyme infusion tea with honey and use a few drops of its natural essential oil for aromatherapy at home.


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


Wild thyme
Wild thyme, Lithuania

Gardening


Thyme grows best in full sun and enjoys the heat. This herb is drought-tolerant, so it does not require a lot of water. Indoors, plant it with basil, mint, and dill, which prefer similar conditions. In your outdoor garden, grow thyme near vegetable crops. It is not afraid of winter.


Thyme is hard to cultivate from seed due to sluggish, inconsistent germination. Ideally, you can propagate thyme plants from your own cuttings. Another option is to visit a garden center or get cuttings from a friend.


If you want to use thyme as a medicinal herb or spice, only the above-ground portion of the plant, cut off when it blooms, is needed. Keep fresh thyme refrigerated and lightly wrapped in plastic for up to two weeks. For drying, hang its sprigs in a dark, well-ventilated, warm place; when they are dried, keep them in an airtight jar. The herb will keep its flavor for two years if stored properly.


Health Benefits


The healing properties of thyme have been known for five thousand years, and for centuries in some countries it has been a symbol of courage and masculinity. The Sumerians in Mesopotamia created one of humanity's first great civilizations. Based on their inscriptions, they used poultices made from pears, figs, and thyme as antiseptics.


The ancient Egyptians practiced mummification using thyme. The Greek pharmacologists Crateuas (111–64 BC) and Dioscorides (40–90) researched and described its medicinal properties.


Thyme was introduced to Europe by the Romans, who used it to purify their homes and add an aromatic flavor to cheese and liquor. In the Middle Ages, thyme was already used as a valuable medicinal plant, for example, as a remedy for asthma or shortness of breath.


Most species in the genus Thymus are medicinal plants, including common thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and wild thyme (Thymus serpyllum). They have antimicrobial, antifungal, anthelmintic, antispasmodic, antioxidant, and expectorant properties. Pertusinas, a liquid thyme extract, is a long-standing and popular herbal remedy in Lithuania and Latvia for boosting the immune system and respiratory health.


Note: Before trying any herbal treatments, get the OK from your doctor or a professional herbalist.


Cooking


Thyme is a popular herb in many European cuisines, particularly in the Mediterranean. Herbes de Provence, a classic blend of herbs and spices from Southern France's Provence region, contains dried thyme.


The taste and aroma of this spice are unique, and it aids digestion. You might want to use dried thyme with dishes that contain fatty meats, such as lamb and pork. Thyme is a common ingredient in braises, sauces, and soups. It also tastes great with rice, mushrooms, vegetables, and even fresh bread and works well as a fish seasoning, enhancing the flavor of the fish.


Thymus serpyllum
Wild thyme, Lithuania

Do you use thyme in your cooking or for your health? Or perhaps you grow this herb in your backyard? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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