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Herbology: Thyme-less

Thyme is one of the most common garden herbs. It also has a long, rich history and equally lengthy list of uses. The name thyme is believed to be a derivation of the Greek word thymom , which means courage, and thyme is reputed to overcome shyness.

In the Middle Ages, a popular remedy for melancholy was to sleep on a pillow stuffed with thyme. It was thought to lift and invigorate the spirits and it was a symbol of chivalry as well. During the French Revolution, it signified the Republican spirit. Christian tradition says that thyme was among the herbs in the manger bed where the Christ child lay, and ancient Egyptians used thyme oil for embalming, and the antiseptic and preservative properties. In ancient Greece, the fragrant sprigs freshened the house and chased away insects. Today, the dried flowers are used in linen sachets to discourage pests, and a strong infusion of thyme makes a safe and fragrant disinfectant for any household surface.

Today, thyme is used primarily as a culinary herb. It’s popular in many cuisines and makes a fine addition to bouquet garni . Lemon thyme gives an added zest to flavored vinegars, soups and stews. Thyme-flavored honey has been a delicacy since Virgil’s time and can usually be found in Greek delicatessens. Thyme’s volatile oils are often added to aftershave lotions and soaps, and it’s also used to give flavor and aroma to Benedictine.

Among thyme’s constituents is the essential oil containing thymol and carvacrol (up to 2.5 percent) as the main components, plus tannins, bitter compounds, saponins and organic acids. Known most for its antiseptic qualities, it also has expectorant, antispasmodic, carminative, deodorant and anthelmintic properties.

Thyme tea is soothing to sore throats and coughs as either a beverage or gargle. It relieves a stomachache or irritable bowel and is often prescribed as a gentle tonic for childhood diarrhea. Thyme has a pungent and slightly bitter taste, and as tea, it’s best enjoyed with honey. Lemon thyme is especially good for tea because of its citrus flavor. The leaves and flowering tops are used for tea, which is made by infusing three teaspoons of fresh herb or up to two teaspoons of dried in one cup of freshly boiling water. Steep up to 10 minutes or to taste.

Cough Blend

Here’s a tea blend that combines three powerful cough and congestion remedies. It should not be used excessively but can bring miracle relief in small doses over a few days. It can be gargled an ounce at a time for relief of a scratchy throat and for sipping, combine with plenty of honey for its throat-coating action.

1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried hyssop
1 teaspoon dried sage leaves
1 cup water, barely boiled. Steep 10 minutes.

Cool Brew

Combined with Fenugreek and cayenne, thyme works well to reduce fever.

1 teaspoon dried fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon dried thyme
? teaspoon powdered cayenne

Bring 1-1/2 cups water to boil. Add fenugreek seeds and simmer 5 minutes. Then, put thyme in a teapot and pour the unstrained fenugreek decoction over the thyme, cover and steep 10 minutes. Strain, stir in cayenne and sweeten with honey.

Thyme Bath Bags

Thyme oil is antiseptic and invigorating, so thyme baths are said to be helpful for aches, bruises and swellings.

4 tablespoons oatmeal
2 tablespoons dried thyme
1 tablespoon red rose petals
10 crumbled bay leaves

Mix ingredients together and spoon into little cheesecloth bags or sachets. Tie securely and use one in each bath.

Herb Salt

This is a wonderful collection of flavors that is good on any dish.

1 cup sea salt or kelp
4 tablespoons each parsley and basil
2 tablespoons mint, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, dill weed, lemon balm and paprika

Place all ingredients in bowl and mix well, in blender or food processor.

Lemon Thyme Vinegar

This is especially nice in fish or chicken recipes. And by the way, it also works well as an insect repellent!

2 cups lemon thyme sprigs
1 cup lemon balm leaves
1 cup lemon verbena leaves
Lemon peel from a fresh lemon
4 cups white wine vinegar

Place herbs in a sterilized 5-6-cup bottle. Heat vinegar to the boiling point and pour over the herbs. Allow to cool, then cap with non-metal lid. In a week or two, strain and rebottle. Label and store in cool, dark place.

Thyme Herb Butter

Use this flavorful butter for seasoning cooked rice or to baste chicken or fish.

1 cup softened butter
1/2 cup chopped celery leaves
1/2 cup crumbled parsley
1-1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon each sage and marjoram
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Whirl all together in blender or food processor. Refrigerate or freeze in covered container.

Thyme Bundles

One imaginative way to use thyme is to tie up the dried stems to make aromatic bundles for burning in a fireplace. Tie them in bundles in the summer after stripping off the leaves. Store in dry, dark place until ready to use in late fall and winter.

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