|Type:||Herbaceous perennials and subshrubs|
|Disease issues:||Root rots can be a problem|
Thyme (Thymus) (pronounced "time") is a genus of about 350 species of aromatic perennial herbaceous plants and sub-shrubs to 40 cm tall, in the family Lamiaceae and native to Europe, North Africa and Asia. A number of species have different w:chemotypes. They are grown as culinary herbs, ground covers, and rock garden plants around the world.
The stems tend to be narrow or even wiry; the leaves are evergreen in most species, arranged in opposite pairs, oval, entire, and small, 4-20 mm long. The flowers are in dense terminal heads, with an uneven calyx, with the upper lip three-lobed, and the lower cleft; the corolla is tubular, 4-10 mm long, and white, pink or purple.
Well-drained soil is a must. They are better adapted to ceramic containers than to plastic.
Among the most commonly cultivated species are:
- Thymus vulgaris (Common Thyme or Garden Thyme) is a commonly used culinary herb. It is a Mediterranean perennial which is best suited to well-drained soils and enjoys full sun.
- Thymus herba-barona (Caraway Thyme) is used both as a culinary herb and a groundcover, and has a strong caraway scent.
- Thymus × citriodorus (Citrus Thyme; hybrid T. pulegioides × T. vulgaris) is also a popular culinary herb, with cultivars selected with flavours of various Citrus fruit (lemon thyme, etc.)
- Thymus pseudolanuginosus (Woolly Thyme) is not a culinary herb, but is grown as a ground cover
- Thymus serpyllum (Wild Thyme) is an important nectar source plant for honeybees. All thyme species are nectar sources, but wild thyme covers large areas of droughty, rocky soils in southern Europe (Greece is especially famous for wild thyme honey) and North Africa, as well as in similar landscapes in the Berkshire Mountains and Catskill Mountains of the northeastern US.
Thyme is widely cultivated as an herb, grown for its strong flavour, which is due to its content of thymol (Huxley 1992). It retains its flavour on drying better than many other herbs.
Thyme is often used to flavour meats, soups and stews. It is used in French cuisine, where it is an important element in a bouquet garni, as well as in herbes de Provence. It is also widely used in Caribbean cuisine. In some Middle Eastern countries, the condiment za'atar contains thyme as a vital ingredient.
Thyme is added early in cooking so that its oils have time to be released.
Medicinally thyme is used for respiratory infections in the form of a tincture, tisane, salve, syrup or by steam inhalation.
In traditional Jamaican childbirth practice, thyme tea is given to the mother after delivery of the baby. Its oxytocin-like effect causes uterine contractions and more rapid delivery of the placenta but this was said by Sheila Kitzinger to cause an increased prevalence of retained placenta.
Ancient Egyptians used thyme in embalming. The ancient Greeks used it in their baths and burnt it as incense in their temples, believing that thyme was a source of courage. It was thought that the spread of thyme throughout Europe was thanks to the ancient Romans, as they used it to purify their rooms. In the European Middle Ages, the herb was placed beneath pillows to aid sleep and ward off nightmares. (Huxley 1992). In this period, women would also 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.
Pests and diseases
Lepidoptera insect species including Chionodes distinctella and the Coleophora case-bearers C. lixella, C. niveicostella, C. serpylletorum and C. struella (the latter three feed exclusively on Thymus).
- Flora of China: Thymus
- Flora Europaea: Thymus
- Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan.
- Rohde, E. S. (1920). A Garden of Herbs.
- University of North Carolina