Family : Labiatae
The common English or French thyme
(Thymus vulgaris), a native of south-central Europe, is widely
cultivated in France, Germany, and Spain for the leaves and essential
oil that is used in medicine. It is a favourite culinary and hedging
herb in gardens, with numerous decorative and variegated forms.
Thyme was used by the ancient Greeks as medicinal herb and by the
Romans to flavour some food items. It was often associated with
courage and sacrifice.
Thyme is an aromatic, small shrub-like
perennial growing 30 to 45 cm in height. It has gnarled thin, square
stems, woody at the base and small, about 0.5 cm in length, grayish
green, elliptical and very narrow leaves. The flowers are small,
lilac or white and fragrant.
Thyme is best propagated from seeds
sown early indoors or under glass in an outdoor bed. When 5 to 8
cm high, the young plants are set at intervals of 30 to 45 cm in
rows 45 cm apart. A few plants set in a permanent flower bed will
be ornamental and also furnish herb enough for flavoring purposes.
New plants should be started every 3 or 4 years, as the old plants
become too woody to produce tender leaves for culinary use. New
plants may be started by sowing seeds or by planting cuttings or
by layering the old plants as described earlier. Thyme will do best
in a well-drained sunny location. When the plants are in bloom,
12 to 15 cm of the flowering tops should be cut with clippers or
a sharp knife. Sometimes two or more crops can be harvested the
same season. The flowering tops should be spread on a fine screen
or newspaper in a well-ventilated room to dry. After thorough drying,
the leaves and flowering tops should be stripped from the stems
and stored in a closed container.
Thyme contains 0.8 - 2.0% volatile
oil of which the main component is thymol. Other major components
are p-cymene and d-linalool. Appreciable amounts of
camphene, g-terpinene and carvacrol are also reported.
Culinary, medicinal and other
Thyme is a widely used herb. The
leaves, usually blended with other herbs, may be used in meats,
poultry stuffings, gravies, soups, egg dishes, cheese etc. Thyme
oils are used in some processed meats and some sauce and prepared
foods applications. Leaves make a tonic and stimulating tea, used
to treat digestive complaints and respiratory disorders. Antiseptic
and vermifuge essential oil (thymol) is added to disinfectants,
toothpaste, perfumes, toiletries and liqueurs.