Thymus mastichina is a very special thyme, native in the mountains of the Iberian Peninsula, Central Spain and Portugal. It is known by a number of different common names including Spanish Marjoram, Spanish Wood Marjoram, White Thyme, Wild Marjoram or Mastic Thyme.
Thymus mastichina produces tiny, oval-shaped, green leaves, which have an intense flavour. In its Spanish homeland it is used as a culinary herb for meat dishes, stews and sauces and because of its strong aroma has been commonly used in Andalucía to season and preserve olives.
Despite this fact, it is prized more for its essential oils than for its herbal properties. The plant has an herbaceous scent with eucalyptus-like overtones with a hint of a vanilla note, which, in aromatherapy, is used for its soothing, relaxing effect. It is also considered to be especially beneficial in relaxing muscles.
Used fresh or in dried form, its leaves are used to make an herbal tea that is considered useful in treating sore throats, catarrh and colds. If preferred, the tea can be used to gargle with rather than ingested. Infusions are attributed curative or palliative properties of arthritis and rheumatism.
Thymus mastichina is an evergreen shrub. It grows best in well-drained sandy or loamy soils, full sunshine, and either dry or moist soil conditions. Tiny whitish flowers open from dusty pink buds, they grow in small clusters that appear during the summer months of July and August. The fragrant flowers are highly attractive to bees and other beneficial pollinating insects.
The plants grow 30 to 40cm (12 to 16in) height and 60cm (24in) in width. Distinct, pungent and intoxicating, the flowers are like fluffy snowballs and are attractive both fresh and dry.
Sowing: Sow in spring or autumn at around 13°C (55°F)
Sow seed on the surface of lightly firmed, moist seed compost in pots or trays. Do not cover as they need light to germinate. Cover the seed container with a piece of glass or clear plastic and leave in a position which receives diffused light. Once some of the seeds have germinated air should be admitted gradually. Germination 15 to 30 days.
When large enough to handle, transplant seedlings into 7.5cm (3in) pots to grow on. Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out after all risk of frost. For best results, provide any ordinary, well-drained soil in full sun. When transplanting pinch out the tip of each stem to encourage the plants to bush outwards. Plant 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) apart.
Thyme, like Rosemary and Lavender is one of those plants which will not re-grow if cut back too hard, if you need to trim them wait until new growth buds appear in the spring and cut back to the lower ones.
Leaves can be harvested for fresh use throughout the summer; the flavour is best just before flowering. Harvest sparingly the first year.
To store, cut the stems just as the flowers start to open in spring and again in late summer and hang in small bunches to dry. Save some sprigs in olive oil.
One thing to remember, fresh thyme has a softer flavour and is less intensive that dried thyme. Dried thyme has an added smokiness that goes well in spicy foods.. The dried herb surpasses the fresh one in intensity by a factor of two or three. This phenomenon can also be observed in both oregano and rosemary.
Thyme aids in the digestion of high fat foods, and is used to preserve meat.
Thyme is best known as one of the primary components in a classic bouquet garni. When combined with fresh sprigs of parsley and leaves of bay, it will enliven and give depth to the flavour of soups, stews and sauces.
Thyme is also a key element in the traditional, dried, aromatic blend Herbes de Provence and is one of the flavourings in the liqueur, Benedictine. Thyme honey, made when bees collect pollen from thyme flowers, is excellent.
Thyme is popular for its antibacterial and antiseptic properties. Tea preparations are used for sore throats and coughs as well as to improve general immune system functions.
It is used as an antiseptic lotion and mouth wash; as an ointment for skin affections and burns and perfumed with lavender, to keep off gnats and mosquitoes. It is also used for embalming corpses.
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. A stronger tea is useful as a mouthwash or rinse to treat sore gums.
The genus name Thyme derives from Latin thymus, which goes back to Greek thymon meaning 'spirit', originally meaning 'smoke' or 'to fumigate' (it is related to Latin fumus meaning 'smoke' or 'perfume') and the verb thyein meaning 'smoke, cure or offer an incense sacrifice'.
Thyme was used it as incense, for its balsamic odour. The antiseptic properties of Thyme were also fully recognised in classic times, there being a reference in Virgil's Georgics to its use as a fumigator, and Pliny tells us that, when burnt, it puts to flight all venomous creatures.
Most European languages have similarly related names all deriving from the Latin thymus.
Others derive the name from the Greek word thumus, signifying courage, the plant being held in ancient and mediaeval days to be a great source of invigoration, its cordial qualities inspiring courage.
Lady Northcote (in The Herb Garden) says that among the Greeks, Thyme denoted graceful elegance; 'to smell of Thyme' was an expression of praise, applied to those whose style was admirable. It was an emblem of activity, bravery and energy, and in the days of chivalry it was the custom for ladies to embroider a bee hovering over a sprig of Thyme on the scarves they presented to their knights.
The species name mastichina and the common name of Mastic Thyme derive from the Greek word massein, meaning 'to chew', or the verb mastichein meaning 'to gnash the teeth'. It is the origin of the English word masticate.
Interestingly, the Mastic Tree is a small Mediterranean evergreen tree (Pistacia lentiscus) of the cashew family. The tree produces an aromatic, ivory-coloured resin, also known as mastic, is harvested as a spice from the cultivated mastic trees grown in the south of the Greek island of Chios in the Aegean Sea. Mastic resin is a relatively expensive kind of spice that has been used principally as a chewing gum. The flavour can be described as a strong, slightly smoky, resiny aroma.
It is commonly known as Spanish Marjoram, Spanish Wood Marjoram, White Thyme, Wild Marjoram or Mastic Thyme. However - Thymus mastichina should not be confused with Marjoram also known as sweet Marjoram, knotted Marjoram and previously classed as Marjorana hortensis (Origanum majorana).
- Additional Information
Packet Size 30mg Average Seed Count 100 Seeds Seed Form Natural Seeds per gram 3000 seeds / gram Common Name Mastic Thyme, White Thyme Other Common Names Spanish Wood Marjoram Other Language Names Sp: Tomillo blanco Family Lamiaceae Genus Thymus Species mastichina Synonym Thymus zygis Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Mauve-pink flowers, spring and summer Height 15 to 30cm (6 to 12in) Position Full Sun Soil Light Well Drained Soil Time to Sow Sow in spring or autumn Germination 15 to 30 days at 13°C (55°F) Harvest Harvest sparingly the first year. Time to Harvest The flavour is best just before flowering.