Growing and eating thyme
Garden thyme and lemon thyme are the most widely used in cooking and have their own savoury flavour.
Thyme is native to the Mediterranean region and has tiny, pungent leaves which are known equally for their flavour as their medicinal qualities.
How to Grow Thyme:
Soil: can be grown in most soils and doesn't require fertilising. Fertilising may result in a healthier looking plant but the leaves will not be as pungent.
Position: Thyme is a sun lover and doesn't require watering for most of the year.
Height: 20 cm. Cut back hard each winter to encourage fresh new growth in Spring.
Plant: from Spring to Autumn. Thyme can be grown easily from any fresh sprig of thyme with even a small root on the stem. Dividing plants in Spring will renew them.
Pests and Disease: Thyme is very hardy, healthy and problem free.
Care: thyme will benefit from trimming the older stems back in early spring to encourage new growth.
Pick: all year round for use in cooking. For best flavour, pick just before flowering. Hold the stem at the top and run your fingers down the stem, against the direction of the leaf growth to easily remove the leaves.
Choosing varieties: for a medicinal thyme, it is best to choose common garden thyme (Thymus vulgaris) however lemon thyme can be delicious in cooking.
Thyme benefits cabbage and eggplants when grown together.
In the Kitchen:
Thyme's fragrant, 'herby' flavour enhances many dishes. It's best to remove the leaves from the stem or you will end up with lots of stalks in your meal.
To remove the tiny leaves from the stem, squeeze and run your fingers along both sides of the stem from the end with the newest growth, to the other and the leaves will come off.
The flavour of thyme combines well with beef, bacon, lamb, chicken, pork and fish. It also enhances the flavour of olives, tomatoes, mushrooms and goat's cheese.
Other flavours benefit from combination with thyme including onion, garlic, lemon, cinnamon, chocolate and orange.
Scatter fresh thyme leaves over a tomato salad or home made pizza.
Put a few sprigs of fresh thyme into the cavity of a chicken before roasting.
"Thyme is a wonderful herb to grow as ground cover and is a great addition in so many Mediterranean style dishes."
Medicinal uses of thyme:
Both the leaf and the flower are used medicinally.
Thyme is a famous antiseptic and antimicrobial herb. It has been used since ancient times to treat colds and fevers and today is still used to treat many conditions of the respiratory tract. Thyme can be made into a mouth wash to treat sore throats and oral infections.
Thyme is rich in antioxidants. Regularly eating thyme is beneficial for cardiovascular health and can reduce the inflammatory process that is related to a number of today's chronic diseases.