656 Thymus vulgarisCommon Names: thyme, common thyme, garden thyme, lemon thyme Family: Lamiaceae (mint Family)
Thyme is a semi-woody subshrub with aromatic, linear to oval, slightly tomentose (fuzzy), gray-green leaves that are about a half inch long. Like most mints, the stem is square in cross section and the leaves are arranged in pairs opposite each other. Thyme grows in a bushy, many-branched, spreading mound 6-12 in (15-30 cm) high and up to twice as wide. In summer, thyme produces tiny lilac to purple flowers arranged in dense, compact heads.
There are many cultivars in the trade. 'Aureus' has yellowish leaves; 'Orange Blossom' has foliage that smells like oranges; 'Silver Posie' has leaves with white margins.
Lemon thyme (Thymus X citriodorus) is a hybrid between garden thyme and T. pulegioides, sometimes called mother-of-thyme. There are several cultivars of lemon thyme, including 'Argenteus' with silver-edged leaves, 'Aureus' with gold flecks in the leaves, and 'Archer's Gold', with yellow-edged leaves.
Thyme, Thymus vulgaris, is native to the western Mediterranean region and southern Italy. It is cultivated all over the world and has naturalized in some areas including the northeastern US.
CultureThyme does best in neutral to alkaline soils, so add lime if yours is acidic. Thyme grown for the kitchen usually is replaced every few years as it gets woody and scraggly. Light: Thyme thrives in full sun, and will tolerate partial shade. Moisture: Thyme requires regular watering. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 9. Propagation: Thyme can be grown from seed, but if you want to be sure to get a plant with a fragrance you like, you need to propagate vegetatively from a known plant. Thyme is easy to root from cuttings taken from non-woody, fast-growing shoots. Another method is to separate out sections of rooted stems and replant.
Thyme does very well in a pot, where it is allowed to cascade over the sides. It's a natural for rock gardens and belongs in every herb garden. Use low-growing thyme as an edging around flower beds and walkways. Bees love the blossoms.
In the kitchen, thyme is used to season fish, poultry, soups and vegetables. Thyme, parsley and bay leaf are the standard ingredients in the French chef's boquet garni. Thyme is one of the flavorings in the liqueur, Benedictine.
Thyme and thyme oil have been used as fumigants, antiseptics, disinfectants, and mouth washes. The main essential oil in thyme, thymol, is active against salmonella and staphylococcus bacteria. Thymol is one of the active ingredients in Listerine® mouthwash and provides the "medicated" properties of many consumer products. Thyme is said to aid digestion of fatty foods.
This huge genus has three or four hundred species, most of which are aromatic shrubs or perennials, and all of which are native to Asia or Europe.
Steve Christman 3/6/00; updated 5/7/03, 9/17/03, 1/28/04, 2/12/05