Thyme is a herb well known for its culinary properties and more besides
Thyme is a garden herb grown as a house plant in millions of homes worldwide. The herb’s aroma comes from its essential oil giving off a heady scent.
History records the Romans burning Thyme as an incense to purify their rooms and using its culinary properties to flavour foods.
In the Middle Ages it was placed under the pillow to ward off nightmares, and girls added it to poses of flowers which were presented to knights at jousts to give them courage.
Medically Thyme is used as an antiseptic ingredient in mouthwashes and also in commercial hand cleaners. A herbal tea is sometimes drunk as a cough remedy. However it’s best known for its culinary uses.
Thyme can either be bought dried, as a fresh sprig, or a growing plant.
When the herb is dried much of its essential oil evaporates, and a sprig, available from some supermarkets, will only stay fresh for a few days before disappointing, leaving the Garden Centre plant as the best source.
Thyme is easy to grow. Starting out in a small pot on a kitchen window sill it quickly expands and can be planted outside if space allows. If a period of drought dries it out, a good watering will swiftly restore its lively appearance. Growing wild on mountain sides it’s capable of surviving harsh climates.
To enjoy its culinary properties cut or break away a small handful of its tiny branches (a sprig) then detach the leaves by pulling the sprig through a fork, or just pick them off. Crushing the leaves bruises them, and as the oil is released it gives off a heady aroma which is ideal for flavouring meat dishes.
It can withstand long cooking times so it’s great added to stews and other dishes which need to simmer for a while. A roast chicken can be stuffed with onion and a half lemon pierced with a few sprigs of fresh Thyme.
If added to a marinade Thyme should be chopped up finely and it blends well with other pungent herbs such as Rosemary and Sage, both of which we will explore another time.