Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Thyme -- Facts and Fiction

Thymus vulgaris

Most gardeners, whether you are interested in perennials, vegetables, or herbs, don't think twice about picking up a shovel and attacking the soil. For the genteel ladies of the past, it was a new experience. Here is what one gardening author wrote for well-refined ladies who were just beginning to learn about their hobby.

It must be confessed that digging appears, at first sight, a very laborious employment ... but by a little attention to the principles of mechanics and laws of motion, the labour may be much simplified and rendered comparatively easy .. .
Jane Loudon
Instructions in Gardening for Ladies, 1840

One of the first herbs these ladies would have planted would have been thyme. It's great in soups and sauces, meats and vegetables, as well as a host of other recipes.
Thyme grows best in full sun in a fairly dry soil, but a heavy rain doesn't seem to affect it.
As I do my research, I am learning new things right along with you. There's so much to learn yet about thyme, that it amazes me.
So in this last of my four part series, let's get on to the facts and fiction.


1. Thymus came from the Greek word meaning courage; therefore this herb was often connected to stories of heroes and soldiers.

2. Another Greek meaning is fumigate. Thyme was used as a refresher and cleanser in the bath.

3. In the language of flowers, it means a call to action. Combines with the meaning of "courage" this explains why soldiers often took a sprig of thyme to battle.

4. The Romans used thyme as a tea to cure melancholy.

5. Thyme works well as a moth repellent in drawers and cupboards.

6. If you plant thyme near lavender, both will flourish.


1. According to legend, thyme was used for the Virgin Mary's bed.

2. If a toddler is the first person to touch a new plant after it has just been planted, he will remain single for the rest of his life.

3. Having a potted plant of thyme in the house was thought to cause death or illness.

4. If a young woman placed a sprig of thyme in one of her shoes and a sprig of rosemary in the other, on the Eve of St. Agnes (January 20th), she would have a vision of her future husband.

5. Thyme was an aid in seeing fairies. All you had to do was collect a sprig of thyme in an area where fairies were known to abide, and place the sprig on your eyelids. If they were nearby, you would be able to see them.

For he painted all things that matter,
The tints that we all pass by,
Like the little blue wreaths of incense,
That the wild thyme breathes to the sky.

Alfred Noyes, The Elfin Artists, 20th century

Don't forget to visit An Herbal Bedfellow for healthy recipes made with herbs, and also my newest blog:
Bits, Tales, and Yarns - my newest writing adventure.


Tatyana@MySecretGarden said...

What an interesting post! Thank you Jane Marie! If it can cure melancholy, it's certainly for me in these winter months! I got a laugh reading about digging... Great!

The Quintessential Magpie said...

This has always been one of my very favorite spices. I love it on chicken. YUM! I wonder why it's associated with courage. That's very interesting.


Sheila :-)