Thyme is a popular culinary herb that is a main part of everyday cuisine not only in Guyana and the Caribbean but worldwide .There are generally about sixty different varieties including French (common) thyme, lemon thyme, orange thyme and silver thyme..
Thyme is a delicate looking plant with a penetrating fragrance.
Most Guyanese are familiar with two varieties of the thyme plant: fine leaf thyme and broad leaf thyme.
There are quite a few who would also say that there is a third type of thyme: the Guyanese thyme though some vendors overseas call this oregano.
What may not be so well known is the medicinal properties of the humble thyme plant.
Available literature says that thyme has a long history of use in natural medicine in connection with chest and respiratory problems including coughs, bronchitis, and chest congestion.
Scientific researchers recently pinpointed some of the components in thyme that bring about its healing effects. .
Thyme contains a variety of flavonoids which increases the plant’s capacity as an antioxidant- a substance that removes potentially damaging oxidising agents in a living organism giving the plant high standing on the list of anti-oxidant foods..
Thyme has been described as a Nutrient-Dense Spice being an excellent source of vitamin C, a very good source of vitamin A, and a good source of iron, manganese, copper and dietary fibre.
For thousands of years, herbs and spices have been used to help preserve foods and protect them from microbial contamination,
Recent research found that thyme and another culinary herb basil contain constituents that can both prevent contamination and decontaminate previously contaminated foods.
Reports published in the February 2004 issue of Food Microbiology, stated that researchers found that thyme essential oil was able to decontaminate lettuce inoculated with Shigella, an infectious organism that triggers diarrhea and may cause significant intestinal damage.
In addition, washing produce in solution containing either basil or thyme essential oil at the very low concentration of just 1% resulted in dropping the number of Shigella bacteria below the point at which they could be detected.
Scientists have advised that it makes good sense to include thyme and basil in recipes, particularly for foods that are not cooked such as salads.
They say that adding fresh thyme and/or basil to your next dish will not only enhance the flavor of your fresh greens, but will help ensure that the fresh produce you consume is safe to eat.
(Next Week: Growing Thyme).
(By Clifford Stanley)