Monday, 9 April 2007

Up a Garden Path -- Sage and Thyme

 My herb garden

Salvia Icterina 

Salvia Purpurea 

Salvia Tricolor

Thymus Citron 'Aureus' 

Thymus Citron 'Variegatus'


Italians most commonly use sage to flavour meat and poultry dishes; especially veal, which is often thought as bland.

Sage leaves fried in butter until the butter turns brown make an easy and interesting, but not exactly light, sauce to be eaten with Italian gnocchi.

Sage is a very powerful spice and tends to dominate; its slightly bitter taste is not appreciated by some people. It is sometimes combined with garlic and pepper (preferably green pepper) for barbecued or fried meat. Because of its strong taste, combination of sage with more subtle-flavoured, delicate herbs does not make much sense.


It ranks as one of the finest herbs of French cuisine. The general rule of using herbs in cooking is - when in doubt use thyme.It has a strong piquant or lemony flavor. For fresh use, the flavor is best just before flowering.

The Persians once nibbled fresh thyme as an appetizer. Some ancients Greeks thought thyme gave one courage. Thyme was grown in monastery gardens in southern France and in Spain and Italy during the Middle Ages for use as a cough remedy, digestive aid and treatment for intestinal parasites.

Thymol, thyme's most active ingredient, is used in such over-the-counter products as Listerine mouthwash and Vicks VapoRub because of its well-known antibacterial and antifungal properties. Thymol apparently also has a therapeutic effect on the lungs. Ingesting or inhaling the oil helps to loosen phlegm and relax the muscles in the respiratory tract.

In Germany, concoctions of thyme are frequently prescribed for coughs, including those resulting from whooping cough, bronchitis and emphysema. In the United States, thyme extract was included in a popular cough syrup, Pertussin, that is no longer on the market. Thyme is used in herbal teas prepared for colds and flus. In addition, thyme has antifungal properties and can be used against athlete's foot.

To make a tea, use two teaspoons of dried herb per cup of boiling water and steep for ten minutes. Add sage to the tea if you have a nagging cough. The Food and Drug Administration includes thyme on its list of herbs generally regarded as safe, but large doses may cause intestinal problems. If you experience diarrhea or bloating, cut back on the amount you're using or discontinue use altogether.

A stronger tea is useful as a mouthwash or rinse to treat sore gums.

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