Member of the family Lamiaceae
There is a large variety of thyme, some say over one hundred.
Most types of thyme are so close in appearance that it can be difficult to differentiate them. The two most common types are called Garden thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and Lemon thyme (Thymus citriodorus).
Thyme is a perennial evergreen shrub with small green-gray leaves. The small flowers vary in color from purple to pale pink and white. The stems are often woody. The seeds are very small and roundish.
Thyme contents thymol which is the source of its strong flavor. Thymol, an antiseptic, is the main active ingredient in Listerine mouthwash. Although thyme is flavorful it does not overpower other herbs or spices, and it is therefore often used in blends, e. g. as one of the herbs of Herbes de Provence.
It is best to cultivate thyme in well-drained soil with a lot of sun available.
Thyme retains its flavor on drying better than many other herbs.
Thyme-honey has been praised since ancient times, especially honey from bees which had feasted on the wild thyme growing on the Hymettus mountain in Greece.
Both Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro, October 15, 70 BC – September 21, 19 BC) and Varro (Marcus Terentius Varro, 116 BC – 27 BC) have written about honey and the cultivation of thyme. Virgil loved his bees, and only thyme was good enough for his swarms.
We know that thyme was cultivated in ancient Assyrian and Babylonian gardens. Thyme was used both culinary, and as a medical herb. The Egyptians describe thyme in their papyri, and there is even older Chinese herbals describing the plant.
All the authors of Antiquity writes about thyme. Thyme was offered Aphrodite, and the ancient Greeks used a sprig of thyme as a symbol of courage.
In the Medieval times the ladies of the courts often had a sprig of thyme with a honeybee embroidered on their silk scarfs.
The oldest existing recipes for dishes containing thyme are the, over 2000 years old, recipes of Apicius, Apuleios and Columella.