Late spring was planting time. The basket on Mrs. Fitz’s arm carried a profusion of garlic cloves, the source of the summer’s crop. The plump dame handed me the basket, along with a digging stick for planting. Apparently I had lazed about the castle long enough; until Colum found some use for me, Mrs. Fitz could always find work for an idle hand.
“Her, m’dear. Do ye set ’em here along the south side, between the thyme and foxglove.” She showed me how to divide the tough casing, then how to plant them. It was simple enought, just poke each clove into the ground, blund end down, buried about an inch and a half below the surface. She got up, dusting her voluminous skirts.
Diana Gabaldon, Outlander (Chapter 6 – Colum’s Hall)
This week, OK is proud to welcome Rose into the kitchen! Rose is a garden guru and all-round plant expert, and will be using her expertise to teach us all more about some of the culinary herbs found in the Outlander series. First up is one of my favourites in the kitchen, thyme. And now, over to Rose…
One of my favorite herbs to grow is thyme. It’s a very adaptable plant – all it really needs is a sunny spot and regular water — and it can be grown in your garden as a perennial, as ground cover or as an herb. It’s great in the ground or grown in containers. There are many different varieties of thyme available these days. Lemon thyme, lime thyme, wooly thyme, dwarf thyme, culinary thyme, and many more. They are all pretty low growing plants with small round leave that flower with groups (inflorescence) of white, pink or red flowers in mid to late summer. Lemon & lime thyme tend to be more yellow leaved, and wooly thyme more gray & fuzzy leaved. I like to plant one plant of culinary thyme and one of the citrus varieties to get the most versatility in cooking.
Thyme has been cultivated and used since ancient times. It is one of the plants that Claire sees growing in the castle Leoch kitchen garden when she is given a tour by Mrs. Fitzgibbons in Outlander. Claire does not specifically describe using Thyme in medicine or in cooking, but my own love of cooking and herbology make me want to explore the value of this tough little plant.
It turns out thyme has a number of antimicrobial and antibacterial properties that help to protect us from bacteria and fungus. Before refrigeration, it was used to preserve and decontaminate food. Thyme has been used for eons to treat respiratory ailments, like bronchitis and coughs. The oils from thyme can be added to a hot poultice to help with sore joints, strains and sprains. It can also be added to the bath water to relieve sore muscles. Thyme helps build and support you immune system. It can help you to overcome or ward off illness and it contains all kinds of vitamins & minerals including Vitamin A, C & K, Iron, Magnesium, Calcium, and natural thyme compounds that are better for you than any over the counter vitamin or pill.
Thyme is really easy to add to your diet. Once you have a plant on your window sill or in your back yard, just go out before dinner snip a little of the plant to add to you cooking. Plants do really well when you pinch them back, so always go for the last few inches of green growing tips. For each tip you pinch two will grow back in it place, so the more you use the more you will have.
Rinse the thyme and let it air dry, or pat dry, pinch the tip of the stem and pull backwards along the stem to remove the leaves from the stem, discard the stem. Leaflets may be chopped as coarsely or as fine as you like. Use about three times as much fresh herbs as you would use dried. I like to pick a small herb bouquet before making dinner in the summer. Thyme is best added early to a dish because the natural oils in thyme take a while to release their flavors. I usually add it to the pan with onions and such before cooking meat or as I warming up a pan to cook veggies. I sprinkle it on top of meat or veggies that I’m already cooking and let it release all of its goodness while cooking. It’s also great to add to soups or marinades.
Thank you Rose! Watch for another guest post and herb from Rose in the near future. In the meantime, here is a partial list of OK recipes that use fresh thyme: