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July 1999 Issue
Thymus -- Thyme
by Rossana S. Tarantini
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Barbecue season is upon us and thyme is the appropriate herb for the times. It makes a great addition to most grilled meats and, since there are several varieties, an interesting one too.

Some of the various thymes you'll find out at your local garden centre are:

  • Thymus Vulgaris -- Common Thyme, this one has mauve, purple and occasionally white flowers, it's an upright plant, growing anywhere from 6 - 10 inches high;
  • Thymus Citriodorus -- Lemon Thyme, has a slightly broader leaf than Common Thyme, a strong lemon-scent and grows about 9 inches high;
  • Thymus Doerfleri -- Bressingham Pink, is a creeping variety of thyme, growing carpet-like with bright pink flowers and about 2 inches high; and
  • Thymus Herba-barona -- Caraway Thyme, also a creeping variety, has dark green leaves, pinkish flowers and a strong caraway scent.
Of these, those most commonly used in the kitchen are Common Thyme and Lemon Thyme. The others are mostly used for decorative planting in borders, pathways, and in some cases in the planting of "thyme lawns".

Thyme has a wonderful, vibrant flavour, savoury yet slightly sweet, and does extremely well with pork and poultry, seafood or lamb. Just rub some on with garlic, pepper and olive oil and grill to your liking. Add some rosemary and it makes a great seasoning for roasts.

An infusion of thyme leaves -- remember earlier directions for making a tisane? -- is reputed to relieve digestive problems and diarrhea, or, when used as a mouthwash or gargle, to relieve mouth and gum disorders and sore throat. It is important to know, however, that ingesting too much thyme while pregnant can cause problems, so please steer away from these uses if there is a chance of pregnancy. Diluted essential oils from the leaves may be used as a massage oil or compress for sprains and other aches and pains.

To make a gargle, simply infuse one teaspoon of fresh thyme in one cup of boiling water for ten minutes. Add one teaspoon of fresh lemon juice and gargle with a little of it, drinking the rest. This can be varied by using the same amounts of sage and vinegar instead of thyme and lemon juice. For a massage oil, put one cup of olive oil in a small pan and add two tablespoons of thyme leaves -- or lavender or rosemary. Warm the oil gently, turn off the heat and allow it to steep for ten minutes. Strain and use the oil warm.

For those who've never tried thyme, I suggest the simple grilling technique mentioned above. It's truly wonderful. For those that are more familiar, I've included some recipes that are just a little bit different for you to experiment with.


Trout Stuffed with Mediterranean Herbs

Ask your fish monger to butterfly the trout, making sure to leave the head and tail intact.
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley
  • 4 trout, butterflied
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 fresh oregano stalks
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
Combine the olive oil, garlic and parsley in a small bowl. Make three or four slashes on the sides of the fish and rub or brush the oil mixture over each side and into the slashes. Place one each of the other herb sprigs into each fish cavity and leave there for one hour.

Preheat the broiler or bbq to medium high. Line the broiler or bbq rack with foil which you have brushed with olive oil. (If available, when doing on the bbq, place the fish into a wire fish rack.) Arrange the fish and cook for four minutes per side. Remove the herbs from the cavity and serve.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 1/2 hours including marinating time

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