Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a low spreading woody perennial. It prefers well drained soil in hot sunny position and it tolerates drought. Generally planted in Spring. Easy to layer. It has tiny white- pink, mauve flowers in Summer.Will need to replace plants every few years to control woody growth. Frequent cutting will encourage bushy growth.
There are more than 350 species of thyme. It has along history of use in ancient civilisations; the Egyptians used thyme in the embalming process and the Greeks burnt it as incense in their Temples believing it a source of courage.
Harvest while in flower, thyme can be dried or frozen but the best way is to use it fresh. Thyme has long been used as a culinary ingredient. It is a key ingredient in boquet garni, (a bunch of herbs tied together with string and used to flavour many European dishes). It is used in stocks, sauces, marinades, stuffings, soups and dips. It retains flavour well in dishes cooked slowly in wine.
Thyme is a good companion plant to potatoes, aubergine, tomatoes, strawberries and cabbage. It attracts bees while repelling caterpillars and white fly. It is rich in a volatile oil that has powerful antiseptic qualities and is said to aid digestion.The whole plant is fragrant and its oil throws a powerful punch with a rich penetrating aroma. Said to help fortify the lungs, clear phlegm, relieve inflammation of laryngitis and sore throat.
A couple of cultivars worth mentioning are:
- Lemon thyme (thymus citriodorus) – Glossy dark green leaves with pale lilac flower. Tangy citrus taste, nice in salads and fruit dishes.
- Caraway thyme (thymus Herbert- barona) – Small dark leaved with pink flower. It has a caraway flavour. Yummy with cheese and dips.
- Wild thyme (thymus serphyllum) – Prostrate perennial with slender creeping stems with purple/pink flowers.
For carrot and thyme soup:
- 200g carrots
- 4 shallots (chopped)
- 200g tomatoes (chopped)
- 8 sprigs garden thyme
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1.8 litres chicken stock
- salt & pepper
Put all ingredients in saucepan and simmer with lid on for 30 minutes.
Remove sprigs of thyme and serve with a sprinkling of parsley.