Thyme grows all over the world and it’s many differing varieties can be found from Greenland to Asia. Thyme is a perennial evergreen and is one of the 3 herbs commonly used in Bouquet Garni, the other two being bay leaf and Parsley. As with many herbs most thyme can be found in the Mediterranean area. Why is it difficult to get thyme in the Jazz world? Because Louis Armstrong has all the Thyme in the world.
In medieval times, women would often give knights and warriors gifts that included thyme leaves as it was believed to bring courage to the bearer. Thyme was also used as incense and placed on coffins during funerals as it was supposed to assure passage into the next life.
This enchanted herb was, according to E.S.Rohde, a favorite of the fairies.
The Egyptians would use this herb in enbalming, whilst the greeks used it in their baths and burnt it as incense in their temples.
It was thought that the spread of thyme throughout Europe was thanks to those wacky Romans as they used it to purify their rooms.
I have grown thyme from seed indoors and out and found it very easy to grow. Aparently it is better to grow thyme from softwood cuttings of about 5-8 cm (2-3 inches) in length in a good grit compost mix. If like me you want to grow thyme from seed use common or creeping thyme for better results.
Sow the seeds in early spring indoors, keeping the temperature to around 15°C -21°C (60°F – 70°F). Don’t overwater as seedlings are prone to damping off disease and leave uncovered. Plant out when the risk off frost has gone and they are hardened off.
Trim the plant back after it flowers to prevent it from going woody and to promote new growth.
Thyme will greatly benefit from being grown in full sun, it is actually detrimental for thyme to be grown in soil that is too nutrient rich as this can make the plant ‘leggy’. The soil, as with most herbs, should also be well drained. Although, this is the optimum type of soil is it not completely necessary as I grow thyme in very clayey soil on my allotment and have had no trouble.
The thyme I grow in a pot on my kitchen windowsill has thrived. I just put the seeds into a normal compost mix and watered it now and again. The seeds were not the best either as I bought them from a thrift shop at a knockdown price. So have a go yourself, it is easier than you think. On that note I must add that many people are put off growing plants as they say, “oh I always kill houseplants”. I was the same until I started to grow for food. It really is easier than you think.
Protect from cold winds in the colder months, this herb can be picked from all year round. Don’t overpick though as this will be detrimental to the plant.
A few Thyme Varieties
There are many varieties of thyme so it would be impossible to list them all, instead here are just a handfull that should be of some interest.
Doerfleri thyme – Thymus doerfleri – An everygreen half-hardy annual, pink flowers in the summer a good plant for rockeries.
Archers Gold thyme – Thymus x Citriodorus – Everygreen hardy perennial. grows to about 10cm (4 inches). Green/gold leaves and a useful mild culinary thyme.
Annie Hall Thyme – Thymus Serpyllum – Thought I would put this one in as I like the Woody Allen film with the same name. An evergreen Hardy Annual, pale pink flowers a decorative and aromatic variety of thyme.
Lemon Curd Thyme – Thymus serpyllum ‘Lemon Curd’ – Evergreen hardy perennial a creeping plant. Can be used in cooking, but not the greatest variety.
Thyme has antiseptic quantities and tea made from the leaves can be used as a mouthwash to treat a sore throat or infected gums. It can also be used to kill mosquito larva and help ease rheumatic pain.
Do you break wind too often,(or does your partner) a cup of thyme tea is thought to cut down on too much flatulence.
An infusion is said to be good for headaches, and has been shown to be beneficial for coughs related to colds and flu as well as whooping cough, as the active constituents are known to loosen and expel mucous.
It can also be used to treat anaemia, bronchial ailments, intestinal problems and is also an anti fungal supposedly helping with athlete’s foot and skin parasites.
Have a look at our article on natural remedies to find out how to prepare herbs for medicinal use.