a Love Letter to Thyme

Thymus spp.

Dear Thyme,

I see you. You are evergreen and dainty, a bee magnet when you flower, standing erect or trailing along, willing to be trampled upon and still stand strong. And I taste you. Pungent, mildly spicy. I drink your tisane while I write to you, as it brings me closer to who you are. I need you. I need Thyme. Not just time, but Thyme, the embodiment of your namesake, from the adaptation of the Greek word ‘thumos,’ meaning courage. You bring courage.

The first time I ever planted you, it was in a damp, somewhat shady area. You hated that and died rather quickly. Rotted. Then I learned your origin was from the Mediterranean and now try to mimic that wherever I plant you. In rocks. Dry spots. Full sun. You live year after year in these types of places. I love that kind of habitat too, so maybe that’s why I am also drawn to many of your cousins- Rosemary, Oregano, Marjoram, Sage. All of you are Lamiaceae (Mint) family members—I love your family!

Thymus praecox growing on the steps to our event’s entrance.

You come in a few species, one of them being vulgaris, which Hart calls French Thyme, and we both think that species of you is the best in cooking. Your vulgaris patches keep mostly to themselves, are straight and sort of stiff, slightly pinkish in stem with blue-green leaves, whereas your praecox species is soft-stemmed with glossy, bright, green leaves who creep all over the path. Your citriodorus species somehow smells like lemons, oranges or limes- how can this be? Normally you smell like, like…Thyme. Kind of like how a healthy version of moth balls would smell if that’s even possible.

Then there is you, dressed in wool, that woolly version of yourself, or you variegated, the part of you that likes patterns in your sprigs. We have a little garden shop here in my town of Asheville called Thyme in the Garden, named after you, and where many of your varieties are kept. Your name lends itself to alot of puns, how fun!

Any kitchen garden should have you growing, I think. You offer up much—both culinarily and medicinally, fresh or dried. You are an essential ingredient in my herbes de Provence recipe. And I have put you in Za’atar.

As an herb that protects against infectious diseases, as well as brings courage, your sprigs are perfect for weaving into burn wands. You are a very popular ingredient for natural cleaning products- people go crazy over this thymol constituent in you and extract it as an oil, which can irritate us humans’s skin when applied directly. I make house cleaning sprays with an infusion of your whole plant, to call in your antiseptic medicine powers.

But by far my favorite way to be with you, Thyme, is as a steam. If I have a head cold, or my chest is constricted, or my eyes are itchy with allergies, I boil some water in a pot, add a big handful of your sprigs to it, then make a tent with a towel over my head and steam those aggravations away. 

I don’t want to take for granted the good, simple things in life, and you are one of them. Thank you, Thyme, for being on this planet and giving so freely of yourself.

Mary Plantwalker