Saturday, October 16, 2010
Herb of the Week -- Thyme
The herb of the week is Thyme. (thymus vulgaris)
The word Thyme, came from the Latin word Thymum which came from the Greek Thymon, which is believed to be a derivative of the Greek word Thyein, which meant to make a burnt offering or sacrifice.
The ancient Greeks burnt it as incense in their temples, believing that Thyme was a source of courage.
There is also another theory, that the word comes from the Greek word Tham, which referred to an herb used as part of the mummification process.
It is generally believed that the spread of Thyme throughout Europe was thanks to the Romans, as they used it to purify their rooms and to "give an aromatic flavor to cheese and liqueurs".
In the middle ages, Thyme was placed beneath pillows to aid sleep and ward off nightmares. At this same time, women would give sprigs of Thyme to knights as they went to battle, believing that the Thyme would bring them courage. Thyme was also included in coffins and burned at funerals, as it was believed to aid in the passage to the next life.
Thyme, a strong flavored member of the mint family, gets its flavor from an essential oil known as thymol, which is incidentally the main active ingredient in Listerine Mouthwash.
Thyme is a perennial and will withstand a hard frost, to grow hearty and healthy the following spring. It likes sun and will tolerate full sunlight, although it will do OK in partial shade. It prefers well drained soil. It can be grown from seed, but I personally have had limited success with this, and find that transplants do much better for me.
A slow growing ground cover, Thyme is a welcome addition to any well balanced herb garden. Thyme pretty much grows itself. In fact, the more you fuss with it, the less hardy it will be. Thyme is most fragrant and flavorful when grown in dry, lean soil. Too much moisture will rot the plants.
In the Eastern Mediterranean countries, there is little distinction made between several aromatic members of the mint family, that include Oregano, Thyme, Marjoram, and Savory, so a recipe that calls for one, may, in fact, depending on the region that the recipe came from be referring to one, or any one, of the others. In fact, many Jordanian recipes simply call for zahtar, a blend of such herbs as may be available to the individual cook.
Although strong, it is not overpowering, and it blends well with other herbs and spices, both fresh and dried. Thyme retains its’ flavor in the drying process better than many herbs.
A good source of Iron, Thyme is used widely in European and Mediterranean dishes. With over 100 different varieties, Thyme is on of the most widely used herbs in the world. There is a rule of thumb among many schools of cooking: “When in doubt, use Thyme.”
Culinary uses for Thyme, therefore are too plentiful to count or name.
It makes a nice complement to tomato sauces, cheeses, eggs and vegetables. It can also be used to flavor jellies, breads, vinegars, marinades, sauces and in bouquet garni. holds its flavor in cooking and blends well with other flavors of the Mediterranean region, like garlic, olive oil and tomatoes
Of course there are hundreds of Thyme recipes available, but here are a few simple ones:
8 oz. Philadelphia Cream Cheese
I Tablespoon freshly chopped Thyme
I Tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
1/2 Teaspoon finely minced garlic
Blend all ingredients thoroughly and roll into a 1" diameter log in wax paper. Refrigerate overnight. Slice into 1/4" wheels and serve on crackers.
Lemon Thyme Tea
2 Cups water
1/2 Teaspoon fresh lemon Thyme leaves
1/2 Teaspoon honey
Bring water to a boil and remove from the heat. Add Thyme leaves and steep for 5 minutes. Strain into cups and add honey. Relax and enjoy
Zucchini with Thyme
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 pound fresh zucchini, cut into 3-by-1/2-inch sticks
1 beef bouillon cube, crumbled (use vegetarian bouillon for vegetarian option)
1 teaspoon dried Thyme or 1 Tbsp fresh Thyme, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and butter on medium heat. Add the onion and parsley and cook until soft, but not browned.
Add the zucchini sticks, crumbled bouillon cube, Thyme and a pinch of salt and pepper. Gently stir to coat the zucchini. Cover and cook until tender, from 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how tender the raw zucchini is to begin with, and how small you have sliced the pieces. Check and stir every few minutes. Be careful not to overcook.
Medicinally Thyme has many uses. It has been used through the centuries as a remedy for many ailments, from epilepsy to melancholy. Nowadays, it is prescribed by herbalists for intestinal worms, gastrointestinal ailments, bronchial problems, laryngitis, diarrhea, and lack of appetite. It has antiseptic properties, and can be used as a mouthwash, skin cleanser, anti-fungal agent for athlete's foot and as an anti-parasitic for lice, scabies, and crabs. For skin inflammations and sores, make a poultice by mashing the leaves into a paste.
To use Thyme as an anti-fungal agent or as a parasitic, mix four ounces of Thyme to a pint of alcohol, or buy the essential oil and use sparingly on the affected area. For bronchitis and gastric problems, make a tea to be used once per day. Add honey as a sweetener, if desired.
This warming herb can help loosen and bring up excessive mucus during upper respiratory diseases or sinus problems, yet, because it has anti-spasmodic tendencies, it can reduce dry coughing. It is said to improve digestion and help reduce spasms; and reduce rheumatic and arthritic pain.
A paste of warm, moistened Thyme leaves applied to the affected area is recommended for the relief of pain from abscesses, boils or swelling. In fact, this has also been known to help sciatica and rheumatic pain. Anti-inflammatory anti-pain salves, made by infusing herbs in oils such as Olive Oil or Sesame Oil, often include Thyme for the ability of its volatile oil, Thymol, to deaden pain and quiet spasms. Because Onions are excellent anti-inflammatories, an Onion broth, with a handful of dried Thyme thrown in, will help with aching joints or muscles from arthritis or from flu. Heating Chopped Onions in some olive Oil, with Coarse Salt and Thyme, until golden, and applying the COOLED mixture to a bruised site, externally, is often also very soothing and effective, even on stubbed toes and twisted ankles.
The essential oil of Thyme (Thymol) can cause adverse reactions if taken in it's pure form, so use Thyme-based medications sparingly. If taken in a tea, drink only once or twice per day, and if used on the skin, be aware that it may cause irritation.
In ancient lore, Thyme was thought to have the ability to attract fairies. In the same way as Sage, it has been burned in many places throughout time to cleanse the air, protect from plague, and ward off evil spirits
In Magic, Thyme is burned in incense to purify an area. A place where wild Thyme grows will be a particularly powerful energy center on earth. A magical cleansing bath can be make by pouring a tea made with Thyme and marjoram into the bathwater. A pillow stuffed with Thyme cures nightmares. When attending a funeral, wear a sprig of Thyme to repel the negativity of the mourners. Use as incense for: Health; Healing; Purification; Clairvoyance; Courage; Love; Psychic Awareness; Energy; Power; Strength. Thyme is often burned prior to magical rituals to cleanse the area. Carried and smelled to give courage and energy.
The Wiccan Herb guide suggests that Thyme promotes love and psychic abilities, heightens empathy and helps to rid oneself of psychic sludge.
Thyme has always been, and continues to be one of my favorite herbs. And if it helps with psychic sludge, I now have one more reason to like it.