Thyme (Thymus vulgaris; Labiatae)

Description

Common thyme is a hardy evergreen shrublet to 8 in. (20 cm) tall, spreading to 1 ft (30 cm) and more; tiny leaves, and lilac coloured flowers from June-August. T x citriodorus is similar but with broader, lemon-scented leaves. Origin, southern Europe, introduced before 1548.

Uses

Considerable culinary use for the highly aromatic leaves, particularly with meat and savoury dishes generally, and in Benedictine liqueur, also lemon thyme in custard. The essential oil, thymol, is the part which helps coughs, and catarrh. Thyme is said to have considerable germicidal action. Also good for baths, and is used in toothpaste. Lemon thyme is used in perfumery.

History

Extensively grown by the Greeks and Romans, it was probably brought to this country by the latter, who prescribed it as a cure for melancholy. The Greeks regarded it as an emblem for courage and an infusion was even recommended in 1633 for a cure for shyness. It has a

considerable medical use today, so altogether it is essential to any herb garden.

Cultivation

Easily grown by dividing in spring, or from 2-in long cuttings taken in early summer, put in a frame, potted on when rooted, and planted out in September. Seed is sown in spring (not lemon thyme) and treated in the same way, the final distance between plants being 1 ft (30 cm) either way. A sunny place and a light soil are preferred, preferably alkaline. It is a good container plant.

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