“Wind-bit thyme that smells of dawn in paradise”
Also known as Common or Garden Thyme and Thymus Vulgaris in Latin, thyme is a perennial plant. It is believed to have originated in the mediterranean region and in areas such as Asia, southern Europe which are close and share a similiar climate. It is now cultivated widely.
Description and varieties
Thyme is a shrub that has tiny grey-green leaves, a woody stem and tiny pale pink flowers.
Thyme is a member of the mint family. There are about one hundred varieties of this herb, all of which are scented. The three most commonly put to culinary use are lemon thyme (Thymus citriodorus), caraway thyme (Thymus herba-barona), and common thyme (Thymus vulgaris).
Thyme has a long history of culinary, aromatic and medicinal use. The Sumerians are believed to have used it as an antiseptic in 3000BC and its is also believed to be one of the herbs used to embalm and mummify bodies by the early Egyptians.
Thyme was prized by the ancient Greeks and the phrase "to smell of thyme" came to indicate stylishness. It was also used in medicine, in oils for massage and the bath, as in ingredient in incense manufacture and as an aphrodisiac. The etymology of the word thyme is Greek. It is derived from the word thymon meaning "courage." Wild thyme covers hill areas even in modern Greece and thyme honey is prized.
Other cultures like the Romans and the Scots also associated thyme with courage The latter drank an infusion of wild thyme to bolster courage before a battle and to ward off nightmares. Ladies embroidered a sprig of thyme on the tunics of their knights in the Middle ages, also as a token of courage.
More recently, noted herbalist Culpepper recommended an infusion of thyme as a treatment for hangovers.
In literature, notably in Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's dream", Oberon mentions the herb and associates it with the activities of fairies.
Owing to its antiseptic properties, Thyme oil has been used since the the 16th century as mouthwash and for local antiseptic application.
Thyme is is commonly used in the modern kitchen since it blends well with many foods, does not overpower other flavours, and keeps its flavour even when cooked for a long time, much like Bay.
Thyme is a commonly used in French, Italian and Caribbean food.
Thyme is one of the four components in a classic French bouquet garni.This herb mix combines the aromatic herbs and spice, parsley, peppercorns, thyme and bay leaf). It is an essential addition to stocks, soups, sauces and stews.
Herbes de Provence is another herb mix that includes thyme. As in all provincial cooking, there are divergent opinions about what constitutes this mix.One list includes thyme, rosemary, lavender and summer savory, another names thyme, basil, savory, fennel and lavender flowers. The common belief is always that thyme and lavender are essential. This blend is an excellent seasoning for meats, stews, sauces, vegetables and dressings.
Thyme is an essential ingredient of the aromatic mixture, Zatar, used in the Middle East.
Thyme is also an excellent source of iron and manganese, and a very good source of calcium and a food source of dietary fibre.
Naturopathic treatment of chest and respiratory infections
Thyme is used to treat chest and respiratory problems. It is effective in the case of coughs, bronchitis, and chest congestion. Recent research identifies carvacolo, borneol, geraniol, and the extremely effective antiseptic, thymol as the key active ingredients that make thyme oil therapeutically effective.
Anti-Oxidant action for cell protection
The phenolic compound Thymol is the most prominent constituent of oil of Thyme. Laboratory tests on rats indicate that thymol has anti-ageing, anti-oxidant properties. Similiar studies indicate that Thymol also protects and increases the amount of healthy fat collection in and around cells. The best results in stemming aging and cell damage were achieved by introducing thymol in younger animals and thereby reducing cell damage over an extended time period. It was seen to be less effective in reversing the damage later on in the life-cycle.
Thyme also contains a variety of flavonoids, like apigenin, naringenin, luteolin, and thymonin. Flavonoids are compounds naturally present in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables and also in red wine and are often described as natural response modifiers. There is considerable evidence to show that they help the body respond against diseases as varied as cancer, heart disease, colds and allergies. Thyme's antioxidant ability is considerably increased by the presence of these flavonoids. Since thyme is also an excellent source of manganese it is considered an exceedingly effective anti-oxidant.
Bacteria and fungi like Staphalococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli and Shigella sonnei are some of the microbes that thyme is effective against.
Research shows that the constituents of both thyme and basil can prevent contamination and decontaminate foods that have already been contaminated. The February 2004 issue of Food Microbiology, mentions that thyme essential oil was able to decontaminate lettuce infected with Shigella, an infectious organism that causes diarrhoea and may cause considerable damage to the intestines. It was found that washing the contaminated lettuce in a solution containing just a 1% of thyme or basil essential caused an almost complete destruction of the Shigella bacteria.
Propagation and Harvesting
Thyme can be grwon from seed. A sandy, dry, neutral or marginally alkaline soil and plenty of sun are essential requirements . It should also be protected from the extreme cold. Once the plant takes off it only needs to be pruned regularly for it to prosper.
The best flavour of the herb is just before the plant comes into flower. The leaves maybe dried hung in bunches in a dry kitchen cupboard. The harvesting of leaves should be limited in the first year of the plant's growth.
The Book of Ingredients: Philip Dowell and Adrian Bailey; Penguin/ Mermaid Books 1993
The Complete Book of Herbs; A practical guide to growing and using herbs: Lesley Bremness: Dorling Kindersley 1988
Therapeutic uses of thyme from http://www.whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=77
--Radhikab70 03:54, 3 August 2007 (EDT)