a perennial native to the Mediterranean. It is hardy to zone five, but
is prone to disease and insect infestation in the deep south. Southern
gardeners may want to grow thyme indoors in containers so that
conditions may be carefully controlled. Most varieties grow to only six
to twelve inches in height, and they make an attractive edging for the
perennial border. Leaves are dark gray-green in color, and pale pink
flowers bloom at the tips of the stems in summer.
Leaves can be harvested for fresh use throughout the summer, but the flavor is best just before flowering. To dry, cut the stems just as the flowers start to open and hang in small bunches. Harvest sparingly the first year.
Thyme has a strong piquant or lemony flavor. For fresh use, the flavor is best just before flowering.
· Enhance the flavor of meat, fish and poultry dishes with thyme.
· For chicken and fish marinades, bruise fresh sprigs of thyme and tarragon, and combine with red-wine vinegar and olive oil.
· Use in herb butters and cottage cheese.
It is safe to use thyme as a seasoning during pregnancy, but strong medicinal doses should be avoided if there is any possibility you are pregnant.
Thyme was grown in monastery gardens in southern France and in Spain and Italy during the Middle Ages for use as a cough remedy, digestive aid and treatment for intestinal parasites.
A solution of thyme's most active ingredient, thymol, thyme's most active ingredient, is used in such over-the-counter products as Listerine mouthwash and Vicks VapoRub because of its well-known antibacterial and antifungal properties. Thymol apparently also has a therapeutic effect on the lungs. Ingesting or inhaling the oil helps to loosen phlegm and relax the muscles in the respiratory tract.
In Germany, concoctions of thyme are frequently prescribed for coughs, including those resulting from whooping cough, bronchitis and emphysema. In the United States, thyme extract was included in a popular cough syrup, Pertussin, that is no longer on the market. Thyme is used in herbal teas prepared for colds and flus. In addition, thyme has antifungal properties and can be used against athlete's foot.