Thymus, or thyme, is a common herb found in most home herb gardens. It is relished not only for its culinary uses, but also its medicinal uses.
Cultivation: Thyme is best grown in a hot sunny location with well-drained soil. It is a perennial normally planted in the spring, but it can also be planted in late summer and fall. It can be propagated by seed, cuttings, or by dividing the roots. Once established in the garden, it tolerates drought well. Thyme retains its flavor on drying better than many other herbs.
Culinary uses: Thyme is a good source of iron and is a basic ingredient in French, Greek, Italian, Caribbean, Spanish, and Turkish cuisines. Thyme is often used to flavor meats, soups and stews, and is especially good with lamb and tomatoes. Thyme is not a strong flavor, so it blends well with other herbs and spices.
Thyme is sold both fresh and dried. The fresh form is more flavorful but also less convenient unless you are growing in your own garden. The storage life of fresh Thyme is about a week.
Fresh thyme is commonly sold in bunches of sprigs. A sprig is a single stem snipped from the plant. A recipe may measure thyme in several ways. When the recipe specifies "bunch" or "sprig," it means the whole form. If it asks for teaspoons or tablespoons, it means just the leaves. If the recipe does not specify fresh or dried, assume that it means fresh.
Thyme can also be used in a "bouquet garni"- a bundle of herbs usually tied together with string. Using Thyme in this fashion is great when flavoring soups and stews.
Thyme retains its flavor when dried better than many other herbs. Dried, and especially powdered Thyme occupies less space than fresh, so less of it is required when substituted in a recipe. A normal rule of thumb when cooking with time: use one third as much dried as fresh Thyme - a little less if it is ground. Unlike other herbs, Thyme is slow to release its flavors so it is usually added early in the cooking process.
Medicinal uses: The essential oil of common Thyme is made up of Thymol, which is an antiseptic; this is the main active ingredient in Listerine mouthwash. Before the use of modern antibiotics, Thyme was used to medicate bandages.
A tea made by infusing Thyme in water can be used for cough and bronchitis. It has also been used for respiratory infections in the form of a tincture, salve, syrup or by steam inhalation. Because it is antiseptic, Thyme boiled in water and cooled is very effective against inflammation of the throat when gargled 3 times a day. Other infections and wounds can be dripped with thyme that has been boiled in water and cooled.
*Please note: Consult a physician or health care provider before using any herbal medications.*
**Please note: Thyme should not be used medicinally by pregnant women because of its oxytocin-like effect which can cause uterine contractions.**
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