Saving Thyme

A couple of years ago, I transplanted the thyme growing in my garden to the small patio just outside my kitchen. It was a purely selfish move saving me a few steps when I was cooking and needed a few sprigs.

Thyme on the Patio

When I think about it, it’s a bit ironic. I moved the herb closer to save time while thyme in particular is slow to release it’s flavor often requiring that we usually add it at the beginning of the cooking process. There are a few other uses for the herb which have some connection to time.

In the Middle Ages, Europeans burnt thyme as incense at funerals to usher the spirits of those who had run out of time out into the next world. Similarly, Ancient Egyptians used thyme for embalming bodies as they approached a world of eternity.

Common Thyme or Thymus Vulgaris contains thymol which the compound responsible for it’s strong flavor. Thymol has powerful anti-bacterial qualities that can reduce bacterial resistance to antibiotics. For this reason, thymol is often an ingredient in mouthwashes and hand sanitizers. It’s also likely the reason that it was chosen for enbalming. In new research this year, Doctors Lu and Wu, concluded that thymol has wide inhibitory effects on foodborne pathogens including salmonella. This is a tremendous breakthrough for the poultry industry as today, their products are often washed in chlorine to reduce the potential of salmonella transmission to humans.

A cup of tea made from thyme can be an effective remedy against a cough or gargled to reduce inflammation of the throat or simply enjoyed on a slow afternoon.

Thyme is widely used in cooking in dishes from France to Turkey to Nigeria and the Middle East. It is often used to enhance the flavor of meats, soups and stews. In fact, it may have been the medicinal qualities that improve digestion that caused it to originally be paired with fatty meats. Thyme leaves can be removed from the stems by pulling the stems through the fingers. They can be used whole or chopped. Thyme also retains its flavor when dried better than many other herbs and when using dried thyme, it’s also a good idea to crumble the leaves. Personally, I enjoy it in soups – the kind that languish in a large pot over low heat on cool day.

Creamy Italian White Bean Soup
Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb white cannellini beans soaked overnight
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs fresh thyme
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 bunch fresh arugula, rinsed and thinly sliced

Directions

  1. Cover the beans with water and soak overnight.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil. Cook onion and carrots for 5 to 8 minutes, or until tender. Add garlic, and cook for 30 seconds, continually stirring.
  3. Stir in beans, vegetable broth, pepper, thyme and 2 cups water. Put in slow cooker on high for 4 hours. After 4 hours reduce to low.
  4. With slotted spoon, remove 2 cups of the bean and vegetable mixture from soup and set aside.
  5. In blender at low speed, blend remaining soup in small batches until smooth.Once blended pour soup back into slow cooker pot and stir in reserved beans.
  6. Stir in arugula and cook until wilted. Remove from heat and serve with fresh grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Savor the time!

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75 Comments

  1. So many of our beautiful, common garden herbs have healing qualities that most people just aren’t aware of. Thanks for this reminder about thyme, which also moved right outside my kitchen door. I just ordered some yummy Rancho Gordo cannellini beans, so I’ll definitely give this recipe a try soon. Thanks, Tammy!
    Eleanor

    Reply
  2. Your post is quite TIMELY, Tammy! I am suffering from a sore throat and chest congestion and was just about to make myself some tea. I now will add some fresh time to the mix!!

    Thyme is probably my favorite herb to cook with and we have a fresh plant on my kitchen windowsill (along with oregano, rosemary, parsely, savory and parsley). I often forget their medicinal qualities! Thanks so much for this timely reminder!! :-)

    Reply
  3. This is exactly what I was planning for supper tonight.

    Reply
  4. Lisa H

     /  December 5, 2011

    I was just going through my soup recipes when I took a break to read your blog. We will definitely be eating your soup this week! I have some beautiful dried cannellini I’ve been wanting to use, so this is perfect.
    I love thyme, but have never been successful growing it longer than a couple seasons. Yours is amazing and thriving wonderfully.
    My arugula is growing like crazy, so let me know if you need any. You are welcome to stop by any time.

    Reply
  5. I try every year to have a large herb garden. Rosemary, lemon thyme, and regular thyme are all that I currently have out in the greenhouse. The harsh Texas heat makes it hard to grow outside. Thank you for sharing the recipe! blessings,Kathleen

    Reply
  6. Yum yum and yum. I enjoy the scent of thyme underfoot and in the kitchen. Thank you for the recipe Tammy! Love, S

    Reply
  7. I love this info! It’s nice to know more about a herb that we use a lot. The idea of tea from thyme sounds really intriguing, too :)

    Reply
  8. Also, thyme is colloquially known as the bean herb. I’ve been trying to find the source of that random bit of info (scrap of paper somewhere on my desk) but can’t put my fingers on it. But maybe the soup you made is proof enough?

    Reply
    • Here in the Southwest we often use the herb epazote in beans. I know it grows in the NE also as I’ve seen it in sidewalk cracks in Philadelphia. It’s meant to reduce flatulence but I also like the sort of sharp medicinal flavor.

      Reply
  9. Hmmm, on second thought, maybe savory is the bean herb. Disregard previous comment until I’ve been able to confirm what I said :/

    Reply
  10. This sounds wonderful, Tammy. Thank you for teaching us and giving us help in the kitchen too, with recipes. I need help. :)

    Reply
  11. If humankind comes together to make use of so many wonder herbs from the bosom of Mother Earth, life would be so much better for everyone. I learn something today. Thanks for sharing. And, also thank you for the visit to my virtual world.

    Reply
  12. That soup sounds YUMMY. Thanks, Tammy.

    Reply
  13. I adore using thyme and try and pick extra for the kitchen when I go to get mine which is nowhere near my kitchen :)

    Reply
  14. I really like thyme myself and try to use it as much as possible. My mom doesn’t really like it though, so I’m just waiting to have a place of my own and be able to cook anything I want ;)

    Reply
  15. I’m growing basil, coriander and strawberries in my little garden

    Reply
  16. never Enough Thyme, as they say. Well, I guess a cup of thyme tea wont be bad :)

    Reply
  17. What type of thyme are you growing? Mine does not look like yours. Interesting read today.

    Reply
  18. You make me long for my summer herb garden.

    Reply
  19. The slowfood movement’s favourite herb :)

    Reply
  20. I had just read that Thyme was wonderful for our immune system. Now you post this.

    Thanks!

    Linda
    http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com
    http://deltacountyhistoricalsociety.wordpress.com

    Reply
  21. I truly love thyme, and am so happy to learn of its antibacterial properties as we get into cold and flu season! Too bad my plant died, I’ll have to try again next year.

    Reply
  22. Ah, the old herbs: they carry ancient romance along with them, Tammy :-) Thyme is a favourite of mine, although I did not know its specific medicinal purposes. I love it in between pavement slabs: when you tread on it, it releases a beautiful aroma.

    Lovely post :-) I learn a new thing every time I visit.

    Reply
    • I love the idea of between the pavement slabs. Not sure I can manage it though. Thanks for reading Kate. It means a lot.

      Reply
  23. Wow, I always learn so much from you. You have this talent for tackling a subject that would at first glance seem not very interesting, and then you make the most fascinating thing one reads the entire day. How do you do that? Thank you.

    Reply
  24. But seeing the irony defeats the sting of the irony, surely! :P I adore thyme, but it’s never survived in my parents’ garden. The rosemary, on the other hand, constantly tries to take over the world.

    Reply
  25. I also have my herbs right by my kitchen window. There is nothing better than using fresh home grown herbs!

    Your soup sounds promising, is a classic that I love a lot!
    Yum! ;) Cyberhugs from chilly Belgium!

    Reply
  26. Love fresh thyme. We don’t grow it, but always have a fresh bunch in the fridge (is that the best place for it?). Seems like it goes in just about every recipe we cook!

    Reply
    • And now you know it has all of these medicinal benefits that you should try especially during the winter.

      Reply
  27. This post was like a breath of fresh air – in December!
    Thank you.

    Reply
  28. Your thyme plant looks fabulous. We travelled through Greece many years ago and ate alot of chicken which was prepared with lemon juice and thyme – i knew lemon juice helped to keep bacteria at bay especially in the heat, but now I know why they used so much thme too. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Aha! and while it’s a delicious combination, that could be equally the reason that it was used.

      Reply
  29. I will be looking this one up. I am on a low salt, low fat diet. Taste is hard to come by. Anything with a strong flavor is much desired.

    Thanks, Tammy.

    Reply
  30. Not to discredit thyme or alarm anyone, while I managed a Senior’s Residence, I learned a startling fact. Anyone prone to seizures – epileptic or otherwise – must not be around sage, thyme, rosemary or lavender.

    We had elderly souls who were seizure prone so we found other seasonings that enhanced the dishes suitably. We were able to even make dressings and not have the best of palates detect the absence of sage.

    One of the homemakers has epilepsy and when she worked in one of the pods, she’d have problems. We scoured its larder – to no avail. Finally, we found a huge container of sage on top of the fridge tucked back under the cupboard. A part-time employee didn’t realize why we didn’t have sage so brought her own – pride in the kitchen. She had no idea that it was affecting one of her fellow employees.

    Lavender was a big surprise – didn’t all grannies keep it in their lingerie drawers?

    I know most of the world does not know this…even parents of epileptic children.

    Reply
  31. Thanks for sharing these tidbits about thyme. I use it constantly and know that many herbs offer a variety of benefits, beyond flavor. I wasn’t aware of some of these specifics about thyme.

    My small container of thyme is a big scraggly these days. Need to move it to a larger pot and hope it revives.

    Love white bean soup and white bean cassoulet. Among my faves.

    Reply
  32. I have heard lemon thyme recommended for urinary tract infections. I used to have thyme in my garden–until it was overtaken by the oregano :(

    Reply
  33. My favorite savory spice – thanks for filling us in on some of the history and medicinal uses as well as the etymological connection to time!

    Reply
  34. Adie Andrews

     /  December 16, 2011

    That soup sounds so exotic even though it only has couple of simple ingredients.

    Greets Olympic 2012 Accommodations

    Reply
  35. I had no idea there are slow-flavoring herbs, and thyme is one of them! Somehow, though, I always add it in the beginning already.

    One of my piano students recently recommended thyme tea against an upcoming cold, and this got me through the winter quite well so far! :)

    Reply
  36. Oh, and the soup sounds so nice! I’m still hoping for some pictures, though. ;) Someday, maybe … :)

    Reply
    • Now I have done a few!! Just hadn’t made it when I did this post. Did make it and it was lovely though!

      Reply
  37. My thyme plant did not resist the first frosty night, I got a new one for the “in”side of the kitchen window. What an exquisite scent and flavour. Your soup will be on our menu soon. Thanks a lot for your always delicious recipes and good advices.

    Reply
    • Oh, that’s too bad. Perhaps your frost is much colder than ours? I love bean soup in the winter.

      Reply

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