Thyme in Your Garden
edited: Friday, December 14, 2001
By Cindy L. A. Jones
Posted: Friday, December 14, 2001
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Thyme is a wonderful plant to have in the garden, it is said to bring courage, confidence and fairies. There are over 150 varieties to choose from.
I had a spot in my yard this summer that was just too hot and dry to grow grass so I took the opportunity to plant a thyme garden. Thyme originates in the Mediterranean and does great in well-drained soil with full sun. Thyme means courage and the scent of thyme is said to promote confidence. When I see how many of my thyme plants are still living in the spring, I’ll tell you how confident it made me feel! Thyme is a woody and evergreen perennial. The garden variety, Thymus vulgaris, grows to a height of about 6 inches but there are many varieties that grow close to the ground and are considered creeping. It is a slow grower though and can take awhile to reach harvestable size; plant more than one if you want an adequate supply.
Thyme makes a lovely ground cover upon which to walk, do be careful as it notorious for attracting bees. Trim your thyme plants in the spring to keep them vigorous. Since there are over 150 species, cultivars and varieties of thyme to choose from, you are sure to find one that suits you.
Thyme is known primarily as a culinary herb and gives vegetables a savory flavor. It is also an important flavoring for stocks and can also be added to eggs, meats, mushrooms, tomatoes, cheese, eggs, rice, potatoes. Thyme blends well with rosemary, oregano, marjoram and sage. It is well known in French cuisine and an ingredient of the French herb blend, Herbs de Provence, along with lavender. The flavor of thyme can also be found in Benedictine liqueur. In small amounts, thyme is used in deserts such as shortbread and jellies and goes well with cranberries, dates, figs, oranges and pears. Culinary thyme is typically English thyme or Thymus vulgaris and is related to the wild thyme that grows in the Mediterranean. It is sometimes called winter thyme because it is quite hardy. French thyme (T. vulgaris var.) is not as hardy as English thyme and is more woody as well. There are several variegated varieties of thyme, such as golden lemon thyme (T. x citriodorus aureus) that make attractive garnishes.
The pungent aroma of thyme is due to several essential oils contained in the leaves, most notably, carvacrol and thymol. If thyme reminds you somewhat of oregano, that’s because carvacrol is also the main essential oil in oregano that produces that characteristic flavor and smell. Thyme has potent antibiotic properties due to these essential oils. Thymol is an important ingredient in at least one popular mouth wash. Besides a mouthwash, a tea made from thyme can be used to treat bronchitis and coughs. Thyme can also be used to infuse honey as a pleasant addition to tea.
If you are looking for some interesting varieties of thyme try lemon thyme (T. x citriodorus), caraway thyme (T. herba-barona), and orange balsam thyme. Silver thyme (T. ‘Argenteus’) provides the gardener with a shiny mound that nicely accents evergreens. Thymes with less culinary appeal but are used as ground covers include Mother of thyme (T. pulegiodes) and wooly thyme (T. praecox). Whichever thyme you decide on as your favorite, just make sure you have time and space for thyme in your garden.