Sunday 19 May 2019

Wild thyme: controlling nightmares, flavouring honey and in Byron's Gin

Wild thyme
Image courtesy of John Crellin/ Floral Images
Wild thyme has historically been used as a culinary and medicinal herb. In the Outer Hebrides in the C19th, a decoction was commonly taken for dyspepsia. Flora Celtica tells us that wild thyme tea was widely used in the Highlands and on Shetland; it was "prized as a stimulant and for its alleged ability to control nightmares". It gives a distinctive flavour to Colonsay honey, where bees forage on the wildflowers of the machair, and it has even been used in herbal tobacco substitutes.

Clive Stace's New Flora of the British Isles 4th ed. lists five thymes recorded in the wild in Britain & Ireland. There's garden thyme Thymus vulgaris, with leaf margins curled backwards; lemon thyme T.x. carolipaui, with a distinct lemon scent; large thyme T. pulegioides which has a scattered distribution and can be identified by having hairs on all four angles of the lower stems; and T. serpyllum Breckland thyme, found in c22 sites in Suffolk and Norfolk. The species used in Byron's Gin is the more common wild thyme Thymus drucei, which can be identified by checking the lower part of the stems: it has hairs on two of the four faces, but the other two are hairless.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave a comment!