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Plant Secrets| 15.07.2021
The benefits of thyme: Everything you need to know
There are over 3000 varieties of this small, versatile aromatic plant. From the kitchen to the bathroom, thyme is great for our well-being as well as a treat for our taste buds. Read on to discover all of thyme’s secrets!
The history of thyme
Originally from the Mediterranean basin, “thymus vulgaris” grows wild in hilly landscapes and prefers hot, dry climates. The origin of its name is controversial: it could come from “thyo” meaning “I perfume”, from “thymo” meaning “smoke”, since it used to be burnt like incense, or from "thumus" meaning "courage". Its strong scent meant that it was the herb of choice in Egyptian embalming and was also used in the worship the Greek Gods, where it was burned on altars. In the Middle Ages, it was thought to purify houses. It was also slipped under pillows to promote sleep, and thyme infusions were even used in the preparation of love potions. Since then, it has travelled around the Mediterranean basin and grows just as well in Provence as it does in the Middle East and other Eastern countries.
There are many varieties of thyme. In addition to ordinary thyme, the most well-known are lemon thyme, with its citrus scent, and wild thyme, which contains notes of lavender. The essential oil composition of thyme varies according to the soil it’s grown in: the quantities of thymol, linalool, carvacrol, thuyanol vary between the different plants and this explains the differences in fragrance from one thyme plant to another... as well as from one year to another. These terms appear on thyme essential oil bottles, to guarantee the content of a given oil.
In ancient times thyme was known as a “cure-all”, along with garlic, and was used to cure many different ailments. It was used to treat skin conditions and soothe fragile skin.
Finding good quality thyme
Its small white, purple or pink flowers have a lighter scent than its leaves. When fresh, it’s less pungent and more herbaceous. When dry, it’s more intense, and sometimes slightly camphoric. Although some people are lucky enough to have a thyme plant in their garden, growing it isn’t always easy! If you always want to have the delicious flavour of thyme to hand, then thyme infused olive oil is a very fragrant and practical solution. At A l’Olivier, we offer a delicate aromatic lemon thyme olive oil as well as a garlic & thyme olive oil, both of which are incredibly versatile.
Thyme can be used in slow-cooked dishes: it’s an essential ingredient for any mixed herb mix, it’s also often included in beef casseroles. Once the sauce is reduced and has been taken off the heat, adding extra flavour with a drizzle of garlic & thyme oil really completes the meal.
Thyme is often paired with bay leaf; this is a classic duo in tomato-based sauces. A dash of thyme & garlic olive oil in a tomato salad is always a great idea, too! Thyme can also be sprinkled on pizza like oregano, and its flavour can be reinforced with a generous drizzle of lemon thyme olive oil. Thyme with goat’s and sheep’s cheese is also a match made in heaven. These animals sometimes graze on the aromatic plant, and their milk has naturally taken on its flavour—a flavour that can easily be brought out with a dash of aromatic olive oil. Perfect for lamb or chicken marinades, bruschettas or vegetable tian, you’ll struggle to choose your favourite between our thyme & garlic olive oil and our lemon thyme olive oil!