Bucks County Herald

Elizabeth Ludlow Bowman: Tips for the Compleat Gardener

Thyme is on your side



Garden thyme is a pleasure to see as well as a strong medicine for colds.

Yesterday morning I awoke with a scratchy throat, physicality a little off and I took the advice given by one of my garden clients, I brewed myself a cup of thyme tea and sipped it slowly as the scented steam washed my very countenance.

All symptoms of a viral infection vanished within hours.

One fall many seasons ago I came to do our fall cleanup with a serious head cold and Catherine told me about thyme tea, which has been my serious cold-stopping tool ever since.

Dry thyme, which most who cook have in the spice cabinet, is the best source of the thymol, a natural anti-viral agent. Thyme grows wild in mountainous areas all over the world and has been used medicinally for centuries. The hybrid of wild thyme, common garden thyme, has more of the thymol extracted to make oil than the native variety and it isn’t even the best source of the powerful phenol.

If you refer to “A Modern Herbal” by Mrs. M. Grieve you will be amazed by the vast number of uses there are for the common thyme in your herb garden. You may find yourself gazing in awe at its low, rambling presence. Among the applications of thymol is use both internally and externally to kill bacteria (which makes me wonder if overuse of thyme tea could cause havoc in the intestines and need a follow up of probiotics … just a thought).

I can tell you from experience one cup has stopped colds cold, as it were, without need for more. It is a great treatment for a septic sore throat both as an anti-bacterial and an anesthetic, a great warm gargle.

Thymol is such a powerful antiseptic that it has been used to sterilize surgical dressings and externally to numb the skin and to preserve meat, yet is commonly used in recipes, soups and stews by chefs everywhere. Many of the herbs and spices used in the culinary arts are included for their ability to counteract any less-than-freshness of the ingredients in the stew.

Not to worry, thyme is on your side, as are other items from your herb garden.

Thyme is a little tricky to grow in my experience. It likes the same conditions as lavender, nasty crumbled rocks, well drained, dry even, and sun but it likes to have compost available in the soil for a regenerative feast, best applied alongside the roots. Apparently common thyme sucks up the nutrients in the soil. At this time of year as gardens are “put to bed,” it is good to weed out the area around the thyme and mulch up the roots with soil for winter protection.

Creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum) is a creeping variety that comes in many cultivars all of which bloom different colors and have slightly different leaves so it is easy to create a tapestry of groundcovers around and in your walks and terraces. It likes full sun and needs very minimal maintenance, just an occasional trimming away old stems and the scent rises from your footsteps as you move along the thyme-filled path.

Thyme will not do well if there is a watering system in its bed, thyme needs almost desert conditions to thrive and bees love the flowers. Creeping thyme can do such a good job filling empty spaces on terraces and walkways that weeding may become unnecessary and the plants stay evergreen and nice looking through a reasonable winter.

Take care what you use as a de-icer for paths, looking out for plants of any kind. Read labels for the sake of the future.

Be in touch with your government representatives on all levels to make your opinions known so you may be truly represented in these tumultuous times.

compleatgardener@comcast.net

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