Updated: Mar 7
Wild thyme (Thymus Capitatus) is different from common thyme, in the wild it grows as a low growing, tightly branches bush and the new growth starts to appear from February onwards. It can be found on dry hills, mountains and rocky places.
Thyme is known as kekik in Turkish, but the dried herb you purchase in the supermarket called kekik is not thyme at all, but oregano. Common thyme (Thymus vulagris) can be purchased from garden centre and grown in your garden or a pot, so you can have fresh thyme available throughout the year. It’s a short-lived woody perennial and will live for around 5 years, before you need to take cuttings and re-propagate.
Picking and Drying Wild Thyme
When the new shoots start to appear, is the best time for picking. Pick only the fresh growth, not any woody parts, so once dried you can use without needing to pick out the woody sticks.
Wash thoroughly then dry on an open tray out of direct sunlight and at temperatures below 35oC for 3-4 days to preserve the herb’s colour and essential oils. Thus, they are characterised by their lively appearance and rich aroma. Store in an airtight container, in a cool dry cupboard.
Wild thyme is strongly aromatic so should use less than normal common thyme. Wild thyme is excellent in stews and casseroles or scattered over lamb or chicken, as a seasoning.
Nutritional / Medical Benefits
Thyme has a long history of use as a medicinal herb. It; medicinal properties include: relieving Chest infections, soothing inflamed intestines and digestive system, soothing laryngitis, tonsillitis and respiratory infections. Thyme has antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiseptic properties. For sore throat, coughs, bronchitis and gingivitis gargle with an infusion of thyme.
Thyme is also believed to strengthen the heart and the whole nervous system, energising a tired mind and reviving the senses. Calms the nerves, counteracts melancholy and shyness, and is claimed to be a sexual stimulant. Thyme has been used for centuries to lower blood pressure, by improving blood circulation and bad cholesterol levels and preventing food poisoning. It is also used to treat kidney, bladder problems and colic.
It’s antiseptic and anti-fungal properties make it suitable for treatment of skin injuries, eczema, sprains and arthritis when it is applied directly to the skin.
Not enough is known about the use of wild thyme during pregnancy and breast-feeding, therefore it is recommended to avoid use.
Thyroid disorders - Wild thyme can slow down the thyroid’s activity because it can affect hormones that control the thyroid gland. Talk with your healthcare provider if you have thyroid problems and want to start taking wild thyme.
Little robust scientific evidence is available to confirm the effectiveness of wild thyme for these uses.
Broom Making in Northern Cyprus
The use of wild thyme for brooms is a traditional art of Cyprus, but increasingly the skills are being lost. The thyme is ideal for this purpose as the deeply divided branches are effective in sweeping up and because the plant is fragrant this adds fragrance to the house.
Kemal Deveci, from Kaleburnu (Galinoporni) runs courses on broom making in association with the Büyükkonuk Eco-Tourism Association. Kemal started working as a shepherd boy during this time his grandfather and father taught him the art of broom making. Kemal has made brooms for over 40 years now.
Groups are given training on how to make a small sized hand broom that they could then go on to decorate and use as a wall hanging.
Using a wooden mallet, wild thyme is flattened and separated into two pieces to make the sweep part of the broom. For the handle a forked branch is cut. Next, fresh tenebrinth bark is used for binding the broom together. The binding is wound around the thyme to fasten it to the handle.
Larger versions that can be used for sweeping outside are also made.
Thyme is a versatile herb which can be used to flavour a wide range of foods including meat (e.g. lamb), as well as mollusc (e.g. octopus) and vegetables. It also be used to make a soothing herbal tea.
Source: https://www.cyprusalive.com/en/herbs-and-spices-of-cyprus-more-than-600-different-types-exist-in-cyprus; https://areskee.com/food-drink-and-wine/teas-and-infusions/organic-wild-thyme-capitatus-natural-herbal-tea-by-to-pervoli/; https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-702/wild-thyme
Della, A., Paraskeva-Hadjichambi, D. & Hadjichambis, A.C. An ethnobotanical survey of wild edible plants of Paphos and Larnaca countryside of Cyprus. J Ethnobiology Ethnomedicine 2, 34 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1186/1746-4269-2-34