There are an astonishing number of aromatic thyme species with a wide variety of fragrances, flavors and uses, from culinary and medicinal to mystical and magical. No wonder the highest praise in ancient Greece was the expression “To smell of thyme“.
Culinary use of thyme spice – cooking with thyme
Various types (including lemon thyme and caraway thyme) have the flavor suggested by their names. Lemon thyme and common thyme, with their warm, pleasant aromas, are the ones commonly used in cooking, but it’s well worth trying other varieties.
Thyme is a major culinary herb in Europe, where it shines in slow cooked casseroles and dishes containing meat, poultry or game. It can be assertive and dominate other milder flavors, so robust companions, such as onions, red wine and garlic work well.
Use thyme in terrines, pates, meat pies, marinades (especially for olives), eggplant and tomato dishes and thick vegetable based soups. Dried thyme is often used in the jambalayas and gumbos of Creole and Cajun cooking.
Types of thyme spice
There are some 350 species of thyme. They share much in common, most being sun-loving, perennial woody subshrubs or creeping woody plants with a neat habit that are high in fragrant essential oils.
Here are the most popular types of thyme spice:
Garden or common thyme
Garden or common thyme is the principal culinary thyme. The leaves of all forms are tiny, narrow, elliptic, gray-green and aromatic. The tiny white or occasionally lavender flowers are borne terminally in many-layered whorls.
Selected forms include “Silver Posie”, with soft green and white variegated foliage; “German Winter”, a very hardy spreading form; “Provence”, a selected high quality culinary variety from France; a hybrid called “Fragrantissimus”, or orange thyme, with very fine, erect, thyme- and citrus-scented gray foliage; and “Erectus”, with strong vertical growth.
Caraway or seed cake thyme
Caraway or seed cake thyme is a wiry carpeting thyme with a delicious caraway scent and lavender flowers. The neat foliage is deep green and the loose flower heads are mauve. Varieties include lemon caraway and nutmeg.
Conehead thyme is another very popular cooking thyme. It is an intensely scented, compact spreading subshrub with distinctive terminal conical clusters of deep pmk flowers.
Spanish thyme forms a eat gray, upright subshrub. The scent is predominantly of common thyme with an element of eucalyptus leaf. This thyme is excellent for barbecues.
Lemon thyme has neat, bushy, fresh green leafed plants that are redolent of lemon and thyme, making them ideal for fish and chicken dishes. The plants have somewhat sparse heads of lilac flowers. ‘Silver Queen,’ also known as ‘Silver Strike,’ is a white-variegated form, and golden-variegated thyme was the old Elizabethan ’embroidered thyme.’ ‘Lime’ is a low growing fresh green variety with a tangy lime scent.
Broad leafed thyme
Broad leafed thyme has broadly elliptical leaves with the true leaves with the true thyme fragrance and interrupted inflorescences with whorls of mauve flowers. Varieties include ‘Oregano’ or ‘Pizza‘ thyme, which is often listed as f nummuloriunr, ‘Pennsylvania Tea,’ with broad leaves and a gentle flavor that’s ideal for tisanes; and ‘Bertram Anderson’ syn. ‘Archer’s Gold’ with pink flowers and bright golden foliage in summer.
Winter flowering thyme
Winter flowering thyme forms a small, densely clothed gray bush and is harvested for commercial dried thyme and essential oil. A number of thymes are popular as much for their profuse flowering and dense matting habit as for their fragrance.
Azores or orange peel thyme
Azores or orange peel thyme resembles a dense, bitter orange-scented, mosslike carpet. The flowers are white or lavender.
Mother of thyme
Mother of thyme has been divided taxonomically into two species, previously classified as subspecies -T. serpyllum and T. quinquecostatus. with reddish stems. Many popular varieties of carpeting thymes have been developed from the latter, including red-flowered “Coccineus”, “Minimus”, “Pink Chintz”, “Russetmgs” and “Snowdrift”.
Woolly thyme has soft, gray, dense foliage. Hybrid carpeting varieties also include Coconut and gold speckled, lemon scented Do one Valley “Porlock” and “Westmoreland” (Turkey) thyme are both robust culinary varieties.
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How to grow thyme spice – gardening
- Position: Thymes require good drainage and a sunny position.
- Propagation: Raise thyme from seed in spring, but propagate varieties by cuttings and by division.
- Maintenance: Weed the carpeting thymes regularly.
- Pests and diseases: There are none of significance if grown in full sun. Substances leached from the leaves of thyme inhibit surrounding plant growth, reducing weed and grass competition.
- Harvesting and storing: Thyme is low in moisture and easily air dried out of direct sunlight. It retains its flavor.
- Common Thyme: (Thymus Vulgaris)
- Bush BBQ: Thyme is very aromatic, perfect for adding flavor to barbecued meat.
- Thymus Vulgaris: Silver Posie bears pink-purpel flowers in late spring to earl summer.
- Lemon Thyme: (Thymus x citroodus)
- Grow Common Thyme: (Thymus vulgaris) in pots or as a border plant in the garden.