Eat Wild Thyme for a Wild Time!

Thyme, botanically known as Thymus vulgaris, is a perennial garden herb that has been employed since ancient times for medicinal and culinary uses.The World's Healthiest Foodsnotes that thyme has traditionally been associated with courage, with medieval women giving sprigs of thyme to knights going into battle; it has also been used as an herbal remedy for a host of ailments (PMS, Indigestion, Coughs..). It is an excellent source of iron and manganese, a very good source of calcium and a food source of dietary fiber.Since the 16th century, thyme oil has been used for its antiseptic properties, both as mouthwash and a topical application. Thyme tea, rich in volatile oils, minerals, beneficial phenols and flavonoids, is a healthy beverage choice. One of the popular culinary herb plants, thyme is native to Southern Europe and Mediterranean regions.

For thousands of years, herbs and spices have been used to help preserve foods and protect them from microbial contamination. Research shows that both thyme and basil contain constituents that can both prevent contamination and decontaminate previously contaminated foods.

Thymol has been found to protect and significantly increase the percentage of healthy fats found in cell membranes and other cell structures. In particular, the amount of DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid) in brain, kidney, and heart cell membranes was increased after dietary supplementation with thyme.

In Lebanon we use green and dried thyme extensively.  Dried thyme mixed with sumac, toasted sesame seeds and salt is called Zaatar.

It is the main ingredient in the most traditional breakfast food, namely the Man'oushi...or Zaatar pie, which is sold in every bakery and many street vendor carts.

Mom was certain to serve us Zaatar on mornings when we had exams at school.  She said it helped with memory.  Although she wouldn't have known science was behind her belief, she was right!

 (photo courtesy of Stephen Masry)

Culinary Tips

Green wild thyme makes a very healthy salad!  Serve it with grilled meats and fish, or accompanied by Feta cheese and tomatoes for breakfast.  I like to use it in place of Oregano in some pasta dishes.  Dry Zaatar is delicious sprinkled on yogurt, hummus and plain omelets.

You can find Zaatar at most Middle Eastern markets. Make sure you choose Jordanian or Lebanese Zaatar.  There are some inferior products out there that taste like dirt!

Amending Store Bought Zaatar

For each cup of store bought Zaatar (Middle Eastern Thyme mix) you will need:

  • 1 Tbs. dried Sumac (available at Middle Eastern markets in packets or jars) 1/2 tsp. of salt
  • 2 tsp. toasted Sesame Seeds (even if there are some in the mix)

Mix all together and store in airtight jars in the refrigerator for 6 months, or freeze for up to 2 years.

Green Wild Thyme Salad

  • 1 bunch of green Wild Thyme, rinsed and leaves picked off stems
  • 1 very small Onion (yellow or white), finely chopped
  • 1/3 c. finely chopped organic Green Onion
  • Juice from 1 freshly squeezed Lemon
  • 1 Tbs. extra virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 tsp. Sea Salt (opt.)

Mix all together in non-metal bowl.  Serve at room temperature for best flavor.

~ Sahtein! (double health) 

Garbanzo Beans

Also known as chickpeas, garbanzo beans originated in the Middle East, the region of the world whose cultures heavily rely on this high protein legume. The first record of garbanzo beans being consumed dates back about seven thousand years. They were first cultivated in the Middle East around 3000 BC. Recent studies have shown that garbanzo bean fiber can be metabolized by bacteria in the colon to produce relatively large amounts of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), including acetic, propionic, and butyric acid. These provide fuel to the cells that line your intestinal wall. The fiber from garbanzo beans helps supports the energy needs of your intestine.

It is recommended that you consume 1–2 cups of legumes per day, at least 4 days per week, to help lower your risk of colon problems, including your risk of colon cancer.

Garbanzo beans also contain more concentrated supplies of antioxidant phytonutrients. The mineral manganese - a key antioxidant in the energy-producing mitochondria found inside most cells - is also provided in excellent amounts by garbanzo beans.

~ Pass the hummus!

Curried Quinoa and Greens with Coconut Dressing

This recipe contains ingredients that enhance Cellular Damage Control! Quinoa contains the amino acid lysine, which is essential for tissue growth and repair.

Quinoa, once called "the gold of the Incas, is an amino acid-rich (protein) seed that has a fluffy, creamy, slightly crunchy texture and a somewhat nutty flavor when cooked. Quinoa is actually a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard.

The recipe below adds Kale, another 'fantastic food'.

One cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6, 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.

Kale’s health benefits are primarily linked to the high concentration and excellent source of antioxidants, and sulphur-containing phytonutrients. If you make the recipe with Green Tea instead of the other suggested liquids, you'll dramatically increase the Antioxidant benefits!

Curried Quinoa and Greens

Makes 6-7 servings about ½ c. each

  • 2/3 c. red Quinoa
  • 2-½ c. Water, Green Tea or no-sodium Veg Broth
  • 3 c. young Kale, lower stems removed, and chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 tsp. Curry powder
  • Pinch Sea Salt

Coconut Dressing

  • 3 Tbs unsweetened light Coconut Milk
  • 2 tsp. fresh squeezed Lime juice
  • ¼ tsp. Curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Stevia
  • ¼ c unsalted, dry roasted Almonds

Toast the quinoa for 5-6 minutes in a 4-quart sauté pan over med heat, until fragrant, gently stirring from time to time.  Add water or broth, kale, curry and salt; cover and raise temp to high.  Bring to a boil.

Lower heat and simmer until the quinoa and kale are tender, the quinoa ‘tails’ have popped, and liquid is absorbed, about 15 mins.

Remove pan from heat and transfer mixture to a large bowl.

In a small bowl, place the coconut milk, lime juice, ¼ tsp. curry and stevia, and whisk together briskly.  Pour the coconut mixture over the quinoa and toss to combine.  May be served warm, or chilled.

Sprinkle with almonds just before serving.

~ Bon Apetit!