Why so many names for basically the same plant? A single batch of Thyme seed can produce a lot of minutely different looking
thymes with minutely different amounts of flavor. Thus, from Thymus vulgaris
seed, we have, not only the two mentioned above, but also 'Narrow Leaved
French', 'Greek Gray' and 'Broad Leaf English'. Really a more
appropriate name for all these slightly different thymes would be Garden
Thyme, or even Common Thyme. After all the word vulgaris means (no,
not vulgar) common.
Every once in a while, a really different form of Thymus
vulgaris emerges, like Thymus vulgaris
'Argenteus' (Silver Thyme). This
is a slightly variegated Common Thyme with the same flavor but a different look.
Unlike some variegated plants, this plant is not a
sport but a mutated
seedling and does not revert back to green. Hi Ho Silver Thyme, a
recently introduced variegated Common Thyme, also remains variegated throughout
its life. This variety has greater white splotching on its leaves which gives it
a more luminescent look. Both of these can be substituted for Common Thyme in
any recipe. Hi Ho Silver makes an attractive garnish for your gourmet
There are also Thymus vulgaris seedlings that have slightly
different flavors. Thank goodness they have been given distinctive enough names,
like Orange Balsam Thyme and
Italian Oregano Thyme
to easily identify them from the regular Common Thymes.
Using these varieties in recipes calling for Common
Thyme adds a bit of intrigue to the dish because these have slightly
different chemical make-ups when compared to Common Thyme.
Common Thymes bloom in spring and attract early
butterflies and many different kinds of beneficial flies and wasps. They
are also a favorite of honey bees. They should be planted in full sun for
best flavor. The ground should be well drained and fairly fertile. After
they have bloomed, we will pull them up in a ponytail and crop them past
the spent blooms (about a third of the way into the leaves).
The leaves can be used fresh any time;
but for drying, it is best to cut fresh growth after the bloom cycle. When
three or four inch pieces of new growth can be harvested, cut these in the
early morning, after the dew has dried, and make small bundles. Hang these
out of direct light and check often for dryness. How long this will take
depends on the moisture in the air. It is very important to make sure the
Thyme is completely dry before storing, because improperly dried herbs can
mildew and rot. If the herb is crispy when crushed between the fingers,
then it is dry. When using dried herbs, always remove the herbs from the
jar away from the steam of what you are cooking to avoid introducing
moisture into the jar.
Thyme leaves may be small, but they pack
a powerful punch. Thyme is one of the savory herbs, which are main course
herbs used to flavor hardy meals, bone warming soups, and piquant sauces.
It is also one of the three traditional herbs used in Fines
Herbes. Thyme blends well with other savory herbs like
French Tarragon and
Winter Savory to create some memorable flavors, as in this savory
herbal marinade. Or in our citrus, barbeque marinade used
for smoking turkey. The marinade is your basic brine (salt, water, apple
cider vinegar) full of orange slices and a savory barbeque sauce plus
lots of fresh herbs including English Thyme, Rosemary, Greek Oregano,
Greek Bay and Sweet Myrtle. To really infuse flavor, we let the turkey
marinate for three days before smoking.