Ghandi said, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” Today, with all our technological advancements, we hurl ourselves so fast that we forget to take time. The tiny herb called thyme can be a gentle reminder in our gardens to slow our pace, and enjoy.
Thyme has historically symbolized courage and bravery. Medieval ladies embroidered sprigs on scarves for a favored knight going into a battle. Ancient Romans prescribed thyme tea to cure melancholy. Thyme has antiseptic properties and is still used in salves and mouthwashes. In Olde England, thyme tea was sipped to enable people to see fairies.
On a more practical vein, thyme is indispensable in cooking where its delicate flavor blends well with other herbs. Possessing tiny leaves, there is no need to chop, because you can use thyme whole. Thyme can be used fresh or dried, but the dried flavor is more intense. Essential in French cuisine, thyme can also be used in soups, potatoes, roasted meats, poultry stuffing, and egg dishes. When added to foods, thyme aids digestion. In addition, tea made from thyme soothes sore throats and eases hangovers. In the garden, thyme has a delicate charm. Perfect for the front of the border, or greening areas between stones, thyme offers more than just scent. This herb is easy to grow, only requiring abundant sun and well draining soil. Thymes do not like sitting in wet soil or wet winters. Be cautious of planting a robust perennial too close, because thyme will be overpowered and die out.Within the genus Thymus, there are hundreds of species which are classified as upright (six to ten inches) or creeping (two to six inches). In general, the upright thymes are better for culinary use, and the creeping varieties are better suited for groundcover between rocks, or near pathways. To keep upright varieties bushy, pinch back frequently. No need to fertilize these Mediterranean natives, as that causes weak and scentless growth.
Contrary to the often heard lament “there is never enough time,” there are, in fact, more than enough varieties of thyme. Sample from these interesting types: wooly, caraway, cat, coconut, lemon, alba, elfin, minimus, silver queen, orange, or mother of thyme. Each variety has unique qualities to discover. Coconut thyme has delicate mauve flowers, and a very sweet aroma. Cat thyme leaves smell musty, but felines enjoy nibbling them. For a citrus zing, try lemon thyme, which has leaves edged in yellow.
Add some thyme to your garden, and perhaps its presence will remind you to slow down and savor. Give a stressed-out friend complaining about being “out of time,” a basket filled with thyme. Use thyme in cooking, and experiment with several varieties to find your favorite flavor. Remember there is plenty of thyme.
Lemon Thyme Pasta Sauce
1 cup heavy cream, 1 cup grated Asiago cheese (can be found in good cheese departments or you can substitute fresh grated Parmesan cheese, but your sauce will not be as creamy), zest of one lemon, 4 tablespoons fresh lemon thyme leaves, salt and pepper to taste.
To make this lemony sauce, put cream in a heavy saucepan on low, and add in thyme and zest. Reduce and thicken, stirring often for fifteen minuets. Turn heat to medium, and add the cheese. When cheese is incorporated, taste for flavor, and add salt and pepper. Stir into penne style pasta, and serve at room temperature.