Thursday, 24 March 2016


“Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme; Remember me to the one who lives there, For once she was a true love of mine.” – English Folk Song

Thyme is an evergreen herb with culinary, medicinal, and ornamental uses. The most common variety is Thymus vulgaris. Thyme is of the genus Thymus of the mint family (Lamiaceae), and a relative of the oregano genus Origanum. It is a popular culinary herb and has also many other uses, including the extraction of an essential oil and various useful organic chemicals.

The Ancient Egyptians used thyme for embalming, the high thymol content having a pleasant aromatic odour and strong antiseptic properties. The ancient Greeks used thyme in their baths and burnt it as incense in their temples, believing it was a source of courage. The spread of thyme throughout Europe was thought to be due to the Romans, as they used it to purify their rooms and to give an aromatic flavour to cheese and liqueurs. In the European Middle Ages, the herb was placed beneath pillows to aid sleep and ward off nightmares. In this period, women also often gave knights and warriors gifts that included thyme leaves, as it was believed to bring courage to the bearer. Thyme was also used as incense and placed on coffins during funerals, as it was supposed to assure passage into the next life.

Thyme is best cultivated in a hot, sunny location with well-drained soil. It is generally planted in the spring, and thereafter grows as a perennial. It can be propagated by seed, cuttings, or dividing rooted sections of the plant. It tolerates drought well. The plants can take deep freezes and are found growing wild on mountain highlands. Along the Italian Riviera, it is found from sea level up to 800 m. In the mountains of Greece thyme is widespread and the honey that bees make by harvesting nectar from its flowers has an exceedingly pleasant aroma.

Thyme for culinary use is sold both fresh and dried. The fresh form is more flavourful, but also less convenient; storage life is rarely more than a week. Although the fresh form only lasts a week or two under refrigeration, it can last many months if carefully frozen. Thyme retains its flavour on drying better than many other herbs, so it commonly used dried. It is perfectly acceptable to substitute the dried leaves of the herb for whole fresh thyme. However, one should be careful with quantities, as dried thyme can pack quite a punch!

In some Middle Eastern countries, the condiment za’atar (Arabic for thyme) contains thyme as a vital ingredient, together with other herbs, salt and sesame seeds. Dried thyme is widely used in Armenia in tisanes (called urc). In French cuisine, thyme is a common component of the bouquet garni, and of herbes de Provence. Thyme is one of the herbs used in flavouring the liqueur Benedictine.

Oil of thyme, the essential oil of common thyme (Thymus vulgaris), contains 20–54% thymol. Thyme essential oil also contains a range of additional compounds, such as p-cymene, myrcene, borneol, and linalool. Thymol, is a clear crystalline solid and is an antiseptic. It is an active ingredient in various commercially produced mouthwashes such as Listerine. Before the advent of modern antibiotics, oil of thyme was used to medicate bandages. It has also been shown to be effective against various fungi that commonly infect toenails. Thymol can also be found as the active ingredient in some all-natural, alcohol-free hand sanitisers. A tisane made by infusing the herb in water can be used for coughs and bronchitis.

In the language of flowers, a sprig of thyme without flowers, signifies strength and courage. A sprig of flowering thyme means “rest well and sleep soundly”.

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme,
and also part of the Food Friday meme.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely. I don't have enough sunny spots to make a go of an herb garden but always enjoyed growing thyme.
    Thanks for posting here, and I hope you'll come link up at