Aley Chubeza #244, May 11th-13th 2015

Are you going to Scarborough Fair? 
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme 
Remember me to one who lives there 
She once was a true love of mine

 

Thyme has been showered with so many compliments. Maimonides wrote that its virtues provide the body with “wondrous cleanliness,” and in ancient Greece if you told your gal that her hair was thyme-scented, you meant that she was elegant and lovely. Rumor has it that fairies lie on a bed of thyme branches, and the Catholic twist on the story of Jesus’ birth is that Mary gave birth on a Bethlehem-based bed of thyme leaves. The word “thyme” is derived from Greek for courage, and in essence, the herb stood as a symbol of energy, strength and vitality. It was used for food, seasoning, medicine and cleansing.

And man, is it worthy of all its praise! Thyme is beautiful, lean, fragrant, and tasty, and bounds with many health and medical virtues. Over the past few weeks, thyme sprigs have been filling the beds near our packing house in a beautiful spring bloom which we share with you in your boxes. Rub the leaves between your fingertips and breathe in its fresh, heady fragrance. Add a sprig or two to your weekly cooking, then dry the rest for later use by spreading the branches apart and placing them in an open dish. A couple of weeks later, after the leaves have dried, you can strip the branches and store the dried thyme in a sealed container. It is one of those seasoning herbs that keeps its flavor even when dry.

Thyme belongs to the prominent Lamiaceae family, which numbers some 350 members – mostly perennial low bushes with tiny round leaves that bloom during springtime in many shades of pink. Honey derived from thyme flowers is known for its distinctive sweet taste. The thyme plant fares well in cold and dry weather, but definitely prefers full sun and no shade. In Israel, the wild species of thyme are the Thymus bovei which grow specifically in the south, and the species known as Israeli Thyme which grow from the center to the north of the country. The cultivated thyme grown here is mostly lemon thyme and Spanish thyme (Thymus zygis).

 

Thyme is an excellent seasoning herb. It boasts a strong flavor, but it does not dominate other flavors, and combines well with other members of the Lamiaceae family. These virtues have made thyme an honorable member of the bouquet garni and the  Provence, the renowned French bundle of herbs, as well as a secret ingredient in the Syrian za’atar, based on thyme as opposed to hyssop. Aside from great flavor, thyme has high nutritious value. Like many herbs, thyme is rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, vitamins A, B and other minerals.

Really, it is suitable for seasoning almost any food, even the most boring of dishes: cooked veggies, quiches, pasta, sauces, soups, and stove-top  cooking. But thyme can also give a flair to an omelet, salad, and even desserts like ice cream or cookies. As a rule of thumb, you should always try thyme in cooking, even be a little daring in more unexpected dishes.

 

Aside from seasoning, thyme was used to get rid of pests (using the smoke from burning branches, like incense), as a natural deodorant, and most importantly, as an important medicinal plant. As a close relative of the hyssop and oregano, it too contains very strong active ingredients: thymol and Carvacrol which are highly concentrated in the oil produced from thyme. They are antiseptic, antibacterial and antifungal, which makes thyme an excellent remedy for flu, cough, breathing difficulties, asthma, sore throat and phlegm. It is also very beneficial for digestion and is despised by intestinal worms. Thyme eases diarrhea and stomach aches and perks up the appetite. It is helpful in preventing the sleepless nights of insomnia.

Check out this recipe for thyme syrup, from David Kapah, an expert in medicinal herbs and complementary medicine:

Ingredients:

200 gram fresh thyme leaves

1 liter boiling water

(optional) fennel or anise seeds (optional)

2 cups of brown sugar or 1/2 kg honey

Preparation:

  • Wash the leaves if they’re fresh, and place in a pot.
  • Add the boiling water and some fennel seeds. Let sit for an hour, then drain.
  • Pour tincture into a clean pot. Add sugar and boil.
  • Allow water to evaporate till only a third of the quantity remains. It is important to continually stir the mixture so the sugar does not sink and burn.

Cool off and store in a jar in the refrigerator. Sip slowly.

Cough drops can be made by cooking out most of the water in the pot till a sticky sediment remains. Pour on ungreased paper. When the mixture begins to dry off, cut into cubes.

There are a host of other recipes using thyme that are featured in our recipe section.

Wishing you beautiful spring weeks, with good health and strength,

Alon, Bat Ami, Dror, Yochai and the Chubeza team

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This week we’d like to remind you that beets go so nicely with dill – here’re some ideas:

Beet & apple salad with yogurt dill dressing

Beets & walnuts salad with dill

 Be’te’avon!

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 What’s in This Week’s Boxes?

Monday: Zucchini, garlic, Swiss chard/kale, tomatoes, leeks/scallions, potatoes, parsley root, cucumbers/fakus, parsley/dill, lettuce, beets, and a special gift of thyme/mint.

Large box, in addition: Onions/bell peppers, carrots with greens/cabbage, New Zealand spinach.

Wednesday: Zucchini, garlic/garlic chive, Swiss chard/kale, tomatoes, leeks/scallions, potatoes, parsley root, cucumbers/fakus, dill, lettuce, beets, and a special gift of thyme.

Large box, in addition: artichokes/bell peppers, carrots with greens/cabbage, New Zealand spinach.

And there’s more! You can add to your basket a wide, delectable range of additional products from fine small producers: flour, fruits, honey, dates, almonds, garbanzo beans, crackers, probiotic foods, dried fruits and leathers, olive oil, bakery products, pomegranate juice and goat dairy too! You can learn more about each producer on the Chubeza website. On our order system there’s a detailed listing of the products and their cost, you can make an order online now!