Thyme – Thym
Thyme grows in dry, rocky places. It is a native to Spain, southern France and Italy. Next to Rosemary, Thyme is the most common herb in our area. Thyme has been, and still is, an important culinary and medicinal plant. The Egyptians and the Etruscans used it in embalming the dead. The Greeks used it as incense and in their cooking. It was the Romans who introduced Thyme into northern Europe. The Romans cooked with it and it was one of the constituents of cosmetics, hand and face creams and toilet water. Plinius (AD 23-AD 79) already knew that Thyme controlled coughing. Galenus (129-200 AD) treated stomach pains and bronchitis with Thyme. Dodonaeus (1517-1589) wrote that it stimulated the onset of menstruation.
It is a small, woody and much-branched evergreen shrub, covered with tiny dark green leaves. The leaves are slightly hairy and pointing downwards. Clusters of pale to deep pink flowers appear in April. Commercially it is harvested in early spring at the start of the flowering period.
Thyme has a stimulating effect on the nervous system. It relaxes spasms, it reduces the production of mucus and is a strong antiseptic. Bacteria that comes in contact with Thyme essential oil does not survive for more than 40 minutes. Thyme helps with all sorts of stomach, liver and intestinal problems, slow digestion, over-production of gas, lack of appetite, bloated feelings, menstrual problems and infection of the urinary tract, even hair problems.
Thyme Gargle Water (for sore throat and tonsilitis)
Chop 1 tablespoon (1/2 tablespoon if dried Thyme is used) of Thyme in small pieces and add to 150 ml of boiled water (let boiled water rest for 3 minutes); let the Thyme soak for 10 mins. Strain.
Compress (to clean out infected wounds with puss and sores)
Use the same method as above, but increase the herbs to 3 tablespoons to 300 ml of boiled water.
Thyme bath (stimulates the blood circulation and is beneficial to skin problems)
Put 500 gr of herbs in a muslin bag and boil in 4 litres of water for a few minutes. Let it soak for 10 mins. Add to the bath water.
Hair tonic (stimulates the scalp and reduces hair loss)
The same solution as was used for the Thyme bath.
Boil 20 gr of chopped up Thyme, in flower, in 250 ml of water for 5-10 mins. Add 50-70 gr sugar to the mixture. Continue boiling till it thickens slightly. Filter. Take 5-10 tablespoons a day.
Thyme wine (to stimulate appetite)
Let 20 gr of chopped up Thyme, in flower, marinate in 0.7 litre of dry white wine. Filter and drink every day a small glass before or between meals.
Thyme has a long culinary history. We are all familiar with the ‘Bouquet Garni’. Three standard herbs make up this classical French flavouring agent, sprigs of Thyme, sprigs of Parsley and a Bay Leaf. Other herbs can be added to one’s own taste. This ‘Bouquet Garni’ is included in virtually all French stews. Apart from making a dish taste nice, it helps us digest our food.
Lamb Steaks with Thyme
Ingredients: 4 leg-of-lamb chops (2.5 cm thick); 2 tablespoons of olive oil; 1 tablespoon of lemon juice; 24 small sprigs of Thyme; salt and pepper to taste; herb butter flavoured with crushed garlic, tarragon, basil or any other herb you like.
Rub each steak on each side with olive oil and lemon juice. Pull the leaves off the thyme stalks and sprinkle over the meat, on both sides. Leave for 1 to 2 hours. Grill the steaks preferably on the BBQ. Sprinkle with salt and pepper after cooking. Serve with the herb butter.
Pork Chops with Honey and Herbs
4 Pork Chops; 3 tablespoons of clear honey; 3 tablespoons chopped marjoram; 1 tablespoon thyme (stalks removed); salt and pepper to taste; juice of 1/2 lemon; sesame oil.
Brush the chops on each side with honey. Mix the two herbs and coat the chops with them. Sprinkle on the salt, pepper and lemon juice. Grill on the BBQ for 5 minutes on each side close to the heat. Remove it away from the extreme heat and let it cook till tender. Just before it is ready, pour some sesame oil over the chops.
Thyme Liqueur (a typical Provençal digestive)
Ingredients: 100 gram of Thyme in flower; 1 litre of Eau de Vie; 200 gr of sugar; 1 glass of water.
Leave the flowers to macerate in the Eau de Vie for 4 weeks. Filter. Make a syrup with the sugar and water. Let it cool a little. Add to the Thyme Eau de Vie, mix well.
Bibliography: Mediterranean Wild Flowers; Kruidenleer – Chris Raes; Thyme Liqueur – Jean Caillol; Encyclopedia of Herbs and their uses.