Thyme, Thymus vulgaris, is an aromatic, pungent herb from the mint family, Lamiaceae. Available in both fresh and dried forms, thyme finds several culinary and medicinal uses. It also makes for a beautiful, fragrant ornamental in home gardens. Whether it’s British, Mediterranean, African, or regional American cuisine, this plant adds distinct aromas and a subtle flavor to a wide range of dishes.
What is the thyme plant, what are its various uses, and where does it come from? Whether you like shopping for fresh or dried thyme at the supermarket or are planning to include it in your herb garden, it’s helpful to know more about the herb. This post will tell you all about this pleasantly aromatic herb that we all love so much.
|Common Name||Thyme, Garden Thyme, English Thyme|
|Botanical Name||Thymus Vulgaris|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous Perennial|
|Size (Fully Grown)||6 To 12 Inches (15 To 30 cm) Tall, And 6 To 12 Inches (15 To 30 cm) Wide|
|Sun Exposure||Prefers Full Sun But The Plant Can Tolerate Partial Sun Too|
|Soil Type||Loamy, Sandy|
|Soil pH||From 6.0 To 8.0|
|Flower Color||Purple, Pink, Or White|
|U.S. Hardiness Zones||5, 6, 7, 8, And 9|
Different Thyme Varieties
Though Thymus Vulgaris, or commonly thyme, is the most popular variety available in most regions, the genus Thymus comprises 350 herbaceous perennials for different types of thymes. You’ll find tons of varieties in the market with various botanical and common names. Below is a list of the most popular cultivars.
- Wild Thyme
- Elfin Thyme
- Lemon Thyme
- Woolly Thyme
- Creeping Thyme
- Common Thyme
Origins And The Long History Of This Ancient Herb
The herb is now grown in many temperate regions of the world. The origins of thyme can be traced thousands of years back to ancient societies across the Mediterranean and Southern Europe.
Use In Elbaming Rituals
Besides its culinary uses, the herb’s antiseptic and aromatic properties earned it a position in many cultural and medicinal uses. The ancient Egyptians used it in embalming rituals. In those days, people believed that the plant eased the deceased’s passage through the next life.
Thyme Is A Symbol Of Courage And Protection
Historians believe that Romans are the reason why thyme is so popular across Europe. They considered it a symbol of power and bravery, making it a favorite of emperors, and eating thyme before and after a meal was believed to protect against poisoning. Sprigs of thyme were exchanged among Roman soldiers since they thought the herb brought courage to those who inhaled it.
Ancient Greeks also had similar beliefs about the plant, associating it with courage and protection. They included it in their bath and burnt it in temples as an aromatic incense. The Greek word for thyme is also derived from a word meaning “fumigate,” highlighting its purpose as an incense in ancient temples.
What The Thyme Plant Is? Well, At Least A Protector!
During the black death in the 1340s, thyme’s antiseptic properties helped treat infected people’s skin lesions. People also believed that the plant would protect healthy from catching the infection.
Alongside its cultural and medicinal uses, it has been an essential culinary herb, especially in European cuisines. So, as we know, it has remained a vital ingredient of many popular dishes.
Physical Description Of The Thyme Plant
Thymus vulgaris is a low-growing herb grown as an annual in many regions, though it can also survive as an evergreen perennial in warmer areas. It grows up to 6 to 12 inches (about 15 to 30 cm) tall with upright, stiff, tough stems.
The plants are highly aromatic, spreading a subtle mint and clove-like fragrance in the surrounding air. The flowers attract bees and other pollinators. It makes an excellent garden ornamental for borders or edges and a source of fresh, aromatic herbs for your everyday dishes.
The erect stems bear small, oval evergreen leaves with a grey-green color. They’re arranged in opposite pairs and are 5⁄32 to 25/32 inches (about 4 to 20 mm) in length. These aromatic leaves can be used as a fresh herb or dried and used as a seasoning.
The thyme plants give abundant flowers, usually between May and September. They’re borne in tubular clusters at the stems’ tips and are typically purple. Depending on the cultivar, you can also find thyme with yellow, pink, or white flowers. They’re edible and give off a balsamic scent and lemony flavor to make a bright, flavorful garnish to dishes.
What Kind Of Conditions Does The Thyme Plant Grow Well?
Thyme is a popular herb in home gardens for its culinary and decorative uses. This versatile herb isn’t hard to grow if you have the right knowledge. Here’s what you should know about growing it.
The plant isn’t picky about its temperature requirements in any way. It will grow well through most parts of the year as long as there’s no threat of frost. Though it can survive through the winters, its growth will stop during this period. Their growth is at its best during the summer months, which is also when you’ll see bright, dense blooming that attracts bees and other beneficial insects.
Thyme likes to grow in full sunlight but will tolerate partial shade as well. You can also grow the plant indoors if you don’t have enough or any garden space outside. As a tip, I would recommend you to place it near a sunny window when you grow it indoors. The surprising bit is that this herb grows better in poor soil. It will thrive in sandy or loamy soil and even in rocky gravel. How great is that?
Water And Fertilizer
One of the best things about this plant is that you don’t even need to water it regularly. A good fortnightly or monthly drink is enough to keep up the growth. Water only once the soil is completely dry. Please remember to treat it with an all-purpose fertilizer, prepared at half strength, each spring to keep your plant healthy. Overfertilization may boost foliage growth but will diminish its fragrance and flavors, so be careful with that!
Is It Safe To Eat / Consume Thyme?
Thyme isn’t just a fragrant and flavorful herb, but nutritious too. It’s packed with Vitamin C and A and is also a good source of calcium, fiber, iron, and manganese. The oil, leaves, and flowers of this plant effectively treat many ailments and diseases. It is also often included in face washes and anti-acne creams, thanks to its anti-bacterial properties.
Is the plant equally safe for everyone, or are there any medical conditions in which its consumption or use should be avoided or monitored? Let’s take a look.
Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women
Thyme is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women as long as the plant is consumed in moderate amounts. Since there isn’t much research on whether eating it in large quantities is safe or not, it’s best to use it in food amounts.
Thyme is safe for children as long as it’s only included in their diet in safe amounts. Too much of it can upset your little one’s stomach.
People With Allergies
Some individuals are sensitive to plants in the mint family. If you’re allergic to mint, oregano, or other herbs from the Lamiaceae family, you’re likely allergic to thyme too. So be careful!
People With Diabetes
Thyme is safe for people with diabetes. It has a high antioxidant content and anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties to boost health and immunity.
Bleeding Disorders And Surgery
Thyme can slow down blood clotting. If you have a bleeding disorder, have recently undergone surgery, or have surgery scheduled in the next two weeks, it’s better to avoid thyme altogether.
If you have hormone-sensitive diseases, like breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, or similar conditions, it’s best to avoid thyme since it can function as estrogen.
The thyme plant is non-toxic to your pets, and you can safely grow it at your home. The best part is that you can even offer the leaves as a treat for your cat or dog.