A Brief History of Thyme

Good Day to You!

I hope you are all having a nice day today.  It was nice and cool this morning when Thea and I worked in the garden.  I watered everything, and once again everything looks great.  Thea was working on the spinach pots.  The spinach has stopped producing.  They have started flowering and stopped producing leaves.  The rabbits are eating the lower plants, and overall, they looked terrible.  Thea removed the dead plants and replaced them with flowers and herbs.  I trimmed every tomato plant in the bed.  There are a LOT of tomato plants.   I was doing some fake-bonsai work, taking off leafy branches (allowing the plant to put more energy toward the fruit).  I did some weeding and checked almost every plant.   The watermelons aren’t growing as fast as I thought they would.  The sunflowers are enormous, and I am starting to wonder when they will start to flower.  The radishes are probably almost ready, all of them.  Some are starting to flower.  We have one hot pepper and one banana pepper ready.  Sugar snap peas are popping up everywhere.  The strawberries continue to produce.  Big news: Our first TOMATO was picked today.  It was a small orange cherry tomato.  Looked beautiful.  We are going to have a large crop!

Our lessons for today are about zoning and thyme.

It is important to understand that not all plants thrive everywhere.  Most people know and understand this.  A palm tree will not live long in Northern Alaska.  Heck, a palm tree won’t live long in Evanston, Illinois.  So, we know that palm trees and cacti will not survive the snow, but how do we know if Olearia x haastii (New Zealand Daisy-Bush) will? Ahh, enter the USDA Plant Hardiness Zones.  These are geographical areas that have been mapped out for their average annual minimum temperature.  This information allows us to select plants that are hardy to a certain temperature.   We live in Zone 5B.  This means that our average minimum temperature is  -10 to -15 degrees F.  Please take a look at the USDA Hardiness Zone Map!

USDA Plant Hardiness Map

Keep in mind, this map is a guide.  This is a macro-location map.  It makes generalizations about large areas.  It does not mention that planting in sheltered areas or near buildings can shield plants from the harsh winter cold.  It also does not take into consideration common plant stressors.  These include: general pollution, acid rain, toxic waste, unnatural lighting, and even security lighting.  The new techniques used in horticulture, while not always called “green,” have increased many plants’ ability to survive.  New planting systems, watering strategies, fertilizers, and pest control measures allow plants to grow  shielded and unchallenged.  Finally, the USDA Hardiness Zoning Map does not adjust for artificial environments.  Any planting done away from traditional warming soil has a different life cycle.  High altitudes, which are considered unsuitable for plant growth, are not included.

Jeff mentioned that the USDA zones have changed in the last 20 years to accommodate the changing/warming weather patterns across North America and around the world.

Find your zone!  Check out the interactive map by clicking HERE!


Thyme is a common herb grown in many US gardens. It is a perennial native to the Mediterranean area.  Thyme is hardy to Zone 5 (aka Evanston).  If grown in extremely hot areas (like the Deep South), the plant is prone to disease.  Thyme has dark gray-green leaves with a light pink flower.

Growing thyme couldn’t be easier.  You can start from seed if you like, but most greenhouses and nurseries carry transplants.  Thyme likes sandy soil with lots of sun.  Protect the plant during the first winter by heavy mulching, but after a year of established growth, just relax and enjoy!  Just harvest the leaves as you need them, keep the plant pruned and remove dead flowers.

The leaves can be harvested throughout the summer, but the flavor is best just before it flowers.  To dry thyme, cut the stems just as the flowers start to open and hang in a dry area.  Be gentle on your plant during the first year.

Thyme is a tasty culinary treat.  It is strong yet subtle and it works well with other herbs.  Delicious. Thyme goes well with lamb, eggs, red meat, poultry, and fish.  It also makes great herb butter.  It is usually the strongest flavor in herbes de Provence.

It is believed that Ancient Egyptians used thyme for embalming; due to its high thymol content, thyme helped kill bacteria and fungus, which made it a helpful embalming agent.  Ancient Greeks used thyme as a bath scent and incense.  They believed it was a source of courage.  Romans used it in cheese and alcohol making.  During the Middle Ages, thyme was a sleep aid and helped to scare away scary nightmares.  Women gave thyme sprigs to warriors to bring courage.  In southern France and Spain, thyme was used as a cough remedy, digestive aid, and as a remedy for intestinal parasites.

Thymol, thyme’s most active ingredient, is used in Listerine mouthwash and Vicks VapoRub, due to its antibacterial and antifungal properties.  Thymol is thought to relax the lungs and inhaling the substance relaxes muscles and loosens phlegm. 

Thyme is still used as a cough remedy in Germany.  It used to be used in cough syrup in the USA, and it is still a very common ingredient in herbal teas.  Some believe that its antifungal properties can be used against Athlete’s Foot.

Info from here and here.

Fancy that!  I’ve just written the History of Time (…or Thyme).  I should probably get a fancy prize of some sort.
Happy Gardening

Adrienne W.


  1. Peter · June 30, 2010

    There is a more detailed interactive version of the USDA hardiness zone map that will allow you to find the hardiness zone for your zipcode at http://www.plantmaps.com/usda_hardiness_zone_map.php

  2. acwuellner · June 30, 2010

    Peter! Thanks so much for your comment. You are right, I checked out the website, looks great, very fun to to play around with the different zones.

    Thanks for reading the blog!

  3. CookingToday.co.uk · September 15, 2010

    A great read Thyme is my favourite herb. Thank you

  4. acwuellner · September 16, 2010

    Thanks for reading! Glad you enjoyed this post!

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