Never Too Much Thyme
So today I was checking out the garden, sunshine had coaxed me outside, and I noticed how nicely red many of the thymes are. Standard creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum), is sometimes used as a ground cover, but in the Ozarks we grow it along the edges of raised beds. Normally green in color, in winter it takes on a reddish hue. I throw a few sprigs into chicken when it's cooking.
If you've ever looked at the ingredients in Listerine, you may have noticed there are 4 ingredients besides water and alcohol: menthol, thymol, methyl salicylate, and eucalyptol. Translated out of plant Latin, that is simply oils of: mint, thyme, birch twigs and eucalyptus. (Methyl salicylate, or oil of wintergreen, is now manufactured artificially, but originally, it was made from birch twigs). Listerine was created by Dr. Joseph Lister, a pioneer in the use of antiseptics during surgery. It soon became popular for oral surgeons to use, but only took off as an over the counter product in the 1920s when Warner-Lambert, the manufacturer in St. Louis, created the term, "halitosis" as a medical condition. Promoting their product as a sure cure for bad breath , Listerine became a household name. For many years it was marketed as a preventative for colds, a treatment for gum infections and more. It does all of those things, but the company no longer makes the claims.
(Thymus fragrantissimus), which is a more upright thyme with a pleasant orange fragrance, looks good any time of year, a bit grayer in winter, greener in summer. And next to it, the upright version of lemon thyme (Thymus citriodorus) shows no signs of damage from the snow, ice and below zero temperatures we've had.
The creeping lemon thyme (Thymus citriodorus 'Creeping Lemon') is nicely robust in winter. Next spring it will green up and start blooming with deep pink flowers. The upright lemon thyme is easier to harvest than the creeper, but the lower growing one has the best lemony flavor, in my opinion.
Try my lemon balm cake, which has lemon thyme as one of the ingredients. The recipe is here, on my Herb of the Year blog. I have another version I used when Nature's Garden featured my garden a couple of years ago and here's that recipe, but without the lemon thyme, from my Recipes blog (you might enjoy browsing that blog, too). I'm not sure why I left the thyme out of that oane, maybe because that time I used a cake mix; usually I just make the cake from scratch. But there are 2 versions of the same cake, just made a bit differently. (And if you do a search for "Jim Long's lemon balm cake" you'll find several versions, some going back to 1992 and scattered throughout my Making Bentwood Trellis books. Yes - even when making a bentwood trellis for the garden, you need cake!) Here's an early version of my lemon balm cake recipe, actually pages from my Bentwood Trellis book, that I had no idea was on the web, listed on Google books.
If you don't have thyme in your garden, you need some. Whether creeping thyme for cooking, lemon or orange for preparing seafood or desserts, or just a little bit for a groundcover between stepping stones, this is one hardy plant, year in and year out. Happy gardening!