Botanical Name: Thymus vulgaris
Thymus vulgaris is a member of the mint family that can be found in the wild and in garden beds worldwide. This aromatic, woody herb has been used to flavor and preserve foods and beverages for millennia. Thyme leaves were thought to signify courage during medieval times and represented the virtues of grace and bravery in ancient Greece. Dried thyme leaf can be incorporated into culinary recipes, infused as thyme tea, and combined into herbal syrups.
Thyme grows to a height of fifteen inches (about 40 cm), with small rounded leaves and pink flowers on woody stems. This herb is not the same species as mother of thyme or wild thyme. Today the plant is common throughout North America, but it originated in the southern Mediterranean. Experts in language tell us that thyme’s name was derived from the Greek word thumus, or courage. In Medieval times, knights wore sprigs of thyme on their armor as a sign of courage. The scent of thyme was thought to give them strength in the midst of battle.
The fragrance and flavor of thyme leaves have long been a favorite of cooks for seasoning vegetables, soups, and stews. Thyme is especially common in Mediterranean and French cuisine and is an ingredient in the seasoning blend herbs de Provence.
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