Thyme is a widely used culinary herb. There are several varieties, but the most popular is common thyme. The common name is Thymus, a genus of aromatic herbs or shrubby plants of the Mint Family, long cultivated and valued as both ornamentals and sweet herbs. It is a small, perennial shrub, native to the Mediterranean. They have small lavender or pink flowers.
We find this fragrant herb in all sorts of recipes from meats and vegetables to sauces and breads. Thyme is considered “necessary” in clam chowder, bouquet garni, and herbs de Provence. In the European Middle Ages, the herb was placed beneath pillows to aid sleep and ward off nightmares.
Thyme herb is an easy plant to grow in a pot. It is very hardy and will grow under most conditions. A sunny location is best and good drainage is vital as thyme is somewhat susceptible to root rot. Regular pruning promotes growth so as you take cuttings for the kitchen consider shaping the plant as you go.
Thyme herb in its fresh form adds flavour to a recipe as well as making a lovely garnish. Thyme is slow to release its flavors so it is usually added early in the cooking process. Before adding fresh thyme to a dish, the greyish-green leaves should be stripped from the woody stem. These stems smoke pleasantly when tossed onto the coals while barbecuing.
It's difficult to think of a food that is not complemented by thyme. Even sweets like sugar cookies or lemon squares can be improved with a hint of thyme. Meats are a natural for thyme, as are onions. Cheese dishes and all sorts of beans cry out for the addition of thyme. Vegetables, especially corn, carrots and potatoes, are terrific when seasoned with the herb, fresh or dried.
Thyme combines well with other herbs, too. Garlic Chives is a perfect companion. Thyme is nearly always included in Cajun spice mixes and, as stated above, in bouquet garni (along with parsley and a bay leaf) and herbs de Provence, the classic blend with basil,lavender, rosemary, sage, savory, marjoram and fennel.
A herbal tea made by infusing the herb in water can be used for cough and bronchitis. Because it is antiseptic, thyme boiled in water and cooled is very effective against inflammation of the throat when gargled 3 times a day.