Since winter is still firmly upon us, it's a wonderful time to think about thyme. Not only is it a great flavoring in all of the warm soups, stews, and roasts we're busy cooking, but it's a natural healer of colds, coughs, and sore throats. Thyme is an important addition to any kitchen or medicinal herb garden!
This is the third post in our Spotlight on Herbs series.
Thyme in the Garden
Thyme comes in many varieties and is a popular garden plant. For cooking and medicinal purpose, grow common thyme (Thymus vulgaris) or lemon thyme (Thymus citriodorus). Both are easily grown from seed, so start them indoors and then plant outside in the spring.
If you prefer not to start your own, seedlings should be easy to find at a local garden centre. Just make sure to purchase common thyme and not one of the many decorative varieties (although you might want to add some of those to your garden, too!). If you want a quicker harvest, purchase and plant a mature plant.
Thyme grows well in full sun to part-shade. It is a hardy perennial and will grace your herb garden for years to come. Trim your plant each spring to remove woody branches and to rejuvenate the plant.
In the fall, I take handfuls of branches, pack them into glass jars, and stick them in the freezer to use all winter long.
Thyme in the Kitchen
Thyme, with its wonderful flavor, is a great accompaniment for so many dishes. Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Stuff thyme, garlic, and lemon into a chicken before roasting. Sometimes I even slip some thyme under the skin, too.
- Chop thyme up and use it to add flavor to roasted vegetables, or sprinkle some in with your cooked carrots or mashed potatoes.
- Sprinkle over fresh tomato slices, or throw a little into your salad bowl.
- Lay several sprigs over a piece of fish before baking (also good with lemon slices!).
- Add to any egg dish.
- Throw in just about any soup, stew, or stuffing.
- Sprinkle on any meat before roasting.
- It's an excellent addition to the stock pot!
- Lemon thyme in particular makes a nice hot tea in the winter, and iced tea in the summer.
- Thyme is also supposed to taste nice with fruit, although I haven't tested this out for myself!
Adventurous cooks may just find themselves tossing thyme into any number of dishes (this is why it is so fun to grow your own herbs!). Even if you are a strict recipe-follower, thyme — with its mild flavor — blends in well with other spices. Feel free to experiment with it.
Thyme in the Medicine Cabinet
Rosemary Gladstar calls thyme “one of our best medicines”. Thyme is antibacterial, antifungal, and full of antioxidants. It boosts the immune system and helps to clear up coughs, colds, and sore throats. I learned this firsthand last week when a jar of homemade thyme syrup got me through a bad bout of the flu. Thyme is also easily made into a tea to soothe cold symptoms, and did you know? Thyme is also a common component to homemade cleaners and beauty products (especially for acne), due to its antibacterial nature.
The lemon variety has similar properties. In addition, it is great for, especially a child's, upset stomach.
Do you grow thyme in your garden? What are your favorite ways to use this plant?
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