Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and its variations like Lemon thyme and French thyme are hardy winter herbs. They grow in full sun or can be potted and over wintered in a warm sunny spot. Plants are generally frost hardy but can do with protection in winter during very cold spells.
Thyme for health
Thyme is an excellent first aid and tonic herb for winter as it helps to alleviate colds, flu and other respiratory infections by supporting the respiratory system. Make a tea and drink three times a day.
How to make herbal tea
Use one of two sprigs of fresh herbs/or one or two teaspoonfuls of the dried herb per cup, fill the cup with boiling water, leave 10/15 minutes, strain and drink.
Other health benefits:
– Thyme tea is full of antioxidants and can help to increase Omega-3 fatty acids within the brain, which counters the effects of aging.
– Thyme is a good antiseptic and anti-microbial; use thyme tea/infusion as a cleaning wash to relieve insect bites and stings, and to soothe most skin problems, including athlete’s foot and eczema.
Safety first: herbalists always advise a visit to the doctor first before embarking on a course of herbal treatment. Be aware that anything taken in excess can be toxic, even thyme and rosemary. Using fresh or dried leaves in a tea or tincture is usually the safest way to administer herbs, and always keep to the recommended amount in the recipe. The essential oils, being the most concentrated form of the herb, can be very toxic.
Thyme is a delicious culinary herb, especially for adding to slow cooked stews and soups. It is part of the traditional bouquet garni, with sage, rosemary and parsley. Use thyme on its own, or with other herbs to flavour potjiekos, casseroles, sauces and marinades, eggs and cheeses as well as French and Italian dishes.
Try this: Roast chicken the Greek way – with thyme and oregano
Mix together 1/3 cup olive oil, 6 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/3 cup water, chopped garlic, one tbs fresh chopped thyme and 2 tbs fresh chopped oregano. Coat the chicken, as well as peeled and chopped potatoes and small peeled onions. Roast in a hot oven (200 c) and when it is cooked through sprinkle over crumbled feta cheese and olives and roast for another 15 minutes. Garnish with thyme sprigs.
Different types of thyme
Common thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and lemon thyme (T. x citriodorus) (pictured) are small, bushy shrubs (30cm high), while Golden, Silver Posie, Creeping, Doone Valley and Green Thyme are groundcovers. Common, lemon and silver thyme have the strongest healing and culinary properties.
- Grow in full sun and in ordinary, well composted garden soil that drains well. When grown in pots it needs regular watering and fertilising
- thyme becomes woody if not picked or pruned regularly.
- The aromatic leaves keep pests away from cabbages, brinjals, peppers and tomatoes if grown nearby.
- Use shrubby varieties as low clipped hedges, and groundcovers in-between pavers or as fragrant pathways.
Text: Alice Coetzee