The thyme group of herbs is aromatic, versatile and plentiful containing hundreds of species and hundreds of thousands of varieties and a long history of use. The Greeks believed thyme imparted strength and fortitude and thymus is a Greek word for “courage.” Roman soldiers bathed in thyme water to give themselves vigor and Romans strewed thyme on their floors, burned it to deter venomous creatures and flavored their cheese with it. Although native to the western Mediterranean region, thyme came to North America with the first colonists to serve both as a food preservative and as medicine.
Whole gardens can be planted around the taste, texture, color and fragrance of these delightful plants. There are upright and prostrate varieties with small slightly pointed leaves ranging from glossy green to wooly silver or variegated green and gold. Thymes also have star-like flowers - although small - that bloom throughout the summer in shades from crimson to pink or white. It is an easy plant to grow in sun or part shade as long as the soil is well-drained - thyme does not tolerate wet feet. It is easily and reliably propagated by division in spring or fall or started from cuttings from a friend, but seed germinates slowly and unevenly.
The aromatic thymes sport aromas of lavender, orange, coconut as well as silver and gold variegated leaves. Their dried leaves and flowers scent potpourris and sachets and may be added to bath water to help relieve arthritis pain, tone up the nervous system and clear the congestion of a cold. The creeping thymes make attractive aromatic rock garden or edging plants and may be grown between brick pavers on pathways so the scents is released while walking over it. All spread quickly and are suitable for any well-drained spot such as patios and stone walls and cascade, drape and mound in soft mats.
The culinary thymes are a good substitute for salt, a basis for bouquet garni, a common ingredient in sausage and important in Herbes de Provence. Thymus vulgaris are the best culinary thymes such as English, French and German thyme, but lemon (Thymus x citriodorus) and caraway (T. herba-barona) are also popular thymes for the kitchen garden. Thyme has a pleasantly hot bite tempered by a savory-sweet note. Harvest the leafy branches just before it flowers and strip the leaves from the woody stem before adding fresh thyme to just about any meat, casserole, stew, soup or vegetable dish. It also blends well with lemon, garlic and basil and can be used as a garnish in salads and chowders or blended in to make an herbal butter. Lemon thyme is great for cookies or muffins as well as breads and fruit. Caraway thyme is an aromatic accent to roasts. Thyme stimulates the appetite, cleans the palate and aids the digestion of fatty foods.
Thyme is good for new cooks:
its flavor heightens most any food but
it doesn’t overpower any dish
even if you add a little more than intended
LEMON THYME SHORTBREAD COOKIES
1/4c powdered sugar
1 1/3c flour
1tsp lemon zest
4tsp fresh thyme
Cream butter & sugar. Add flour, zest and thyme to form soft dough. Chill Roll out dough to 3/8” and cut out diamonds. Place on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 15-20 mins—do not over bake. Sprinkle with extra powdered sugar while hot.
3- 8oz pkgs softened cream cheese
2c sour cream
1/2c Romano cheese
2 cloves minced garlic
2tsp crushed dried basil
2tsp crushed dried thyme
1/4tsp crushed dried tarragon
1/2tsp cracked black pepper
Combine cream cheese and 1 c sour cream in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add eggs, cheese, garlic, cornstarch and herbs until well blended. Pour into a greased 9” spring form pan and bake at 350 degrees for 60 mins or until lightly browned. Turn off oven and let stand 30 additional minutes. Remove and cool then cover and refrigerate overnight. To serve, remove from pan and spread with 1 c sour cream and garnish with red bell pepper strips and fresh herbs. Serve with crackers or fresh vegetables.
I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.”