Helpful Herbs: Thyme

An ancient herb that will thrive in most conditions, thyme is perfect for a hobby gardener.  It can be used in cooking, for medicine, and for various other benefits, and its only disadvantage is that if it’s healthy it will spread throughout your garden.  Depending on how you plant, this can be an asset since it is a low, soft plant that can be used in pathways or to fill an area where other plants won’t grow.  Thyme can also be grown in containers for a kitchen garden.

Thyme will grow in many soil conditions, but it thrives where it is hot and sunny.  It will survive drought, and can tolerate a deep winter freeze and come back as happy as ever in the spring.  You can start thyme from seeds, cuttings from an established plant, or by dividing an established plant.  If you have established plants it’s a good idea to divide them every spring to prevent them from spreading out of control.  Thyme planted in pots need infrequent watering, and otherwise survive quite well on their own.  Like many herbs, fertilizing too often will take some of the flavor out of the plant and is not necessary.  It is a good idea to mulch the plants heavily with organic matter over the winter.

You can harvest from thyme year round, as long as the main plant is looking healthy and full.  Leaves can be hung or laid out to dry, or used fresh in a recipe.  If left unharvested, thyme will produce hundred of small purple or white flowers, which make a beautiful border on an ornamental garden.

In the kitchen, thyme is most commonly used to season various meat dishes like chicken, lamb, and pork.  It has a minty flavor and it also used in stuffing and with fish.  It compliments slow cooked dishes well, as it has a robust flavor that withstands long cooking times.

t1Thyme is loaded with antioxidants and has many health benefits.  It has been shown to boost the immune system and the essential oil from thyme can be taken in tea to relieve coughs, sore throat, and bronchitis.  Studies on thyme have also shown that it helps to general mood of those who take it regularly, giving them a more positive outlook.

Ancient Egyptians used thyme as part of their embalming process for mummies, and it has been part of herbal lore in nearly every historical era.  The Romans used it to add flavor to cheeses, and the Greeks burned it as incense in their temples.  During the Middle Ages it was used to alleviate nightmares.

Today, in addition to being part of many recipes, thyme is used in hand sanitizers for its antifugal properties.  It is also a common ingredient in mouthwash, deodorants, and potpourri.  It is used in natural pesticides because the scent will help repel mice and rats.  You can rub thyme leaves on your hands for an all-natural mosquito repellent, or use a few drops of the essential oil in your cleaning to rid your home of mold.

Thyme isn’t just pretty or tasty or helpful, its benefits are far reaching.  A few plants can be added to your garden and you will be sure to use it in your daily life.  Whether it’s to ward of insects, add flavor to your chicken dinner, or make a tea to relieve a cold, thyme will help you stay healthy.


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