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.
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
- 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
- Cover the beans with water and soak overnight.
- 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.
- 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.
- With slotted spoon, remove 2 cups of the bean and vegetable mixture from soup and set aside.
- 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.
- Stir in arugula and cook until wilted. Remove from heat and serve with fresh grated Parmesan cheese on top.
Savor the time!