Thyme

Tonielle Christensen Edible Plants, Land & Nature Stewardship

Thyme


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Common Name:  Thyme, Common Thyme, Thymus.

Latin Name:  Thymus vulgaris.

Origin:  Mediterranean region.

Description (what it looks like):  Dense, herbaceous, perennial, evergreen herb with thin wiry stems, with tiny green to grayish leaves that form a spreading, ground-hugging mat up to 15-25cm in height.  Spreads to 60cm wide.  Leaves can be harvested at any time of the year.  Heads of small flowers in all shades of pink and purple, sometimes white, appear from late spring to mid-summer at the ends of the stems.  While the flowers are small in size, they are produced in great numbers and can be very showy.  Thyme is part of the mint family and a relative of oregano.

Uses (function):  Ancient Egyptians used thyme for embalming.  The ancient Greeks burnt it as incense in their temples.  Romans used it to give an aromatic flavour to cheese and liqueurs.  Oil of thyme is known to be an antiseptic and makes a great mouthwash or spray for wounds.  It can often be found in some natural hand sanitisers.  Sore throats benefit from a thyme gargle.  Makes great a garden edging plant next to pathways, where walking past it can activate the scent of thyme.  Brilliant in container gardening, as it can tend to take over areas if left to grow wild.  Ornamental as well as edible and medicinal.  Grows well in rockeries.  The fine and delicate nature of thyme brings another textural element to a permaculture garden.

Nutritional value:  Thyme is an excellent source of vitamin A, C, B6, fiber, riboflavin, iron, copper, and manganese, calcium, folate, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.

Growing details (propagation, seed etc):  Best propagated by root division or cutting.  Slow to grow from seed.  Space plants 25-30cm apart.  Companion plants are oregano, sage, eggplant and cabbage.  It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. Shear off the old dry flowerheads to encourage fresh growth.  Flowers in spring and summer.

Best time to grow:  Root divisions, from 3-4 year old plants, can be taken in late spring and then planted into a sunny spot.

Soil:  Light, somewhat gritty soil that has been enriched with humus for slight moisture retention.

Sun:  Position in full to half-sun.

Water:  Water sparingly once established, but keep mulched.

How to eat it:  Depending on how it is used in a dish, the whole sprig may be used (e.g. in a bouquet garni), or the leaves removed and the stems discarded.  Holds its strong savoury flavour well, so add at beginning of cooking.  Delicious marinating pork or chicken dishes.  Goes well in creamy dressings or vinaigrettes.  A classic in slow cooked stews and soups.  Pairs well with lemon.

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