A New Blog Post? It’s About Thyme

I love history. I’d stop short of calling myself a history buff, although a wise man once pointed that the qualifications of being a “buff” are quite unclear.

There are many lenses through which to view food, and my favorite is understanding a food’s historical context. The herb #thyme is a perfect example.

The Egyptians used thyme for embalming, believing it would aid the dead in their journey to the afterlife. In ancient Greece, the aromatic herb was used in bathing and burned in both temples and homes to purify the air and to inspire courage. Romans used thyme as a poison preventative and antidote, although it’s unlikely that it was effective for most poisons. Roman soldiers would exchange bundles of thyme as a sign of respect.

The medicinal properties of thyme made a comeback when the bubonic plague hit in the 1300’s. Although thyme does have some antibacterial effects, it likely did little to stop the spread of the “Black Death.” It also makes an appearance in the history of Victorian-era England, as Victorians considered the presence of wild thyme in the woods to be a sign of woodland fairies. More practical applications of the herb returned in the 19th century, as some of the earliest antiseptic bandages relied on being soaked in a dilution of thyme oil in water. One of the first food preservation strategies for meats was to rub them in thyme and other herbs.

Long story short, thyme has been around for a very long time (pun intended).

Thyme is a perennial herb and is relatively easy to grow due to its high tolerance for both drought and frost. For these reasons, it commonly grows wild in many areas.

As a culinary ingredient, thyme can be readily used either fresh or dry and is extremely adaptable to different styles of cuisine. Soup,

chicken, fish, fruit and even dessert can all benefit from the addition of thyme.

Keep in mind that if you’re converting between fresh and dried thyme, 1 teaspoon of dried is equivalent to a tablespoon of fresh.

Even if it won’t cure the plague, thyme is a versatile and interesting addition to your kitchen and dinner table. If you’re uncertain of how to use it, start by buying the dried version to avoid the pressure of it spoiling before use. As you become more confident, try out fresh. Cooking is a continual learning process, so try using thyme and other herbs in different ways to find out what you like.

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