herb of the week
GARDEN thyme ( Thymus vulgaris) is a low-growing perennial to around 40cm tall. Tiny aromatic leaves are born on erect stems. Small lilac flowers are borne in summer and they are quite attractive. It originates from the Mediterranean. Thyme requires a hot, sunny location and is at its aromatic best if grown in well-drained soils that are low in nutrients. It will thrive in stony soil and requires little watering once it is established. Plant seeds in spring, preferably in punnets to be transplanted later. The plant will also grow readily from cuttings taken in late spring. Garden thyme can be used as an attractive, drought-tolerant ground cover. The plant should be sheared back after flowering is complete to encourage future bushy growth. Thyme is a favourite culinary herb and is one of the ingredients in the traditional French bouquet garni along with marjoram, parsley, and bay leaf. It imparts excellent flavour to all kinds of red meat dishes, soups, sauces and vegetable dishes and is a favourite ingredient in stuffings for poultry. Thyme has also had many traditional medicinal uses especially in the treatment of coughs and colds and also as an antiseptic ( it contains thymol). The herb was often used to make skin tonics. Thyme oil is reputed to repel head lice.