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By Wellesley Gayle
Ask any Jamaican which herb is most commonly used to add piquant flavour to their savoury dishes and they will tell you thyme.
A popular staple in almost every Jamaican kitchen, thyme, along with escallion (pictured above) plays a big role in giving such traditional culinary creations as rice and peas, curry chicken, jerk chicken, brown stew chicken, pumpkin rice, and many kinds of soups, their tasty, home-made appeal.
No, as a matter of fact it originally comes from the Mediterranean region, and some parts of Asia.
It was used for a wide range of purposes besides as a cooking spice, including mummifying the dead, an incense burned in sacred temples, and even as a rudimentary type of mouthwash.
Eventually it was brought to Jamaica where it has continued to flourish for centuries. Today there are more than 100 varieties of thyme, each with its own characteristic aroma and flavour.
Thyme grows as a perennial, evergreen shrub with flowers which are a purplish-pink colour. It is a member of the mint family.
The fragrant blossoms are a favourite of bees, which results in the production of some particularly delicious honey that is much sought after by many connoisseurs.
Its outstanding versatility is what makes thyme such a popular additive in so many different Jamaican dishes.
It is highly compatible with chicken, meats such as pork and beef, many types of fish, and lots of vegetables as well.
For the best results it is usually added near the end of the cooking time, even though its hardy nature also allows it to hold up for longer periods of heat exposure if so desired.
It can be either chopped or more commonly, added as whole sprigs, which are simply removed before serving.
Fresh thyme is also widely used when frying chicken or fish by simply adding a few stalks to the oil while frying.
Whenever possible, fresh thyme should be used for optimal flavour, however it can also be dried and stored for up to six months.
Sometimes it is combined into a spice bundle with parsley and bay leaves which is added to various recipes.
Rich in such essential nutrients vitamin K, calcium, manganese, iron, thyme is also a good source of dietary fibre and has a multitude of health benefits associated with its use.
Those who are suffering from a cold, bronchitis, or even chronic respiratory ailments such as asthma or emphysema can experience significant relief from congestion and bronchial spasms by drinking tea made with thyme.
People with allergies may find that it helps alleviate burning, watery eyes and a runny nose, and those who have sore throat can get relief by gargling with the liquid from boiled thyme.
Relief from pain due to stomach cramps, headaches, arthritis, sprains, and strains, can also be attained by applying a compress of thyme-water, or soaking in warm tub of it.
It can put an end to intestinal parasitic infections such as hookworm and tapeworm, yeast infections, and help combat insomnia and certain nerve disorders as well.
So there you have it, all you need to know about the versatile Jamaican Thyme :-)BTW, if you are outside of Jamaican, you should be able to find Jamaican thyme in any of the Jamaican or Caribbean food stores. You can also check out my shopping page at Amazon for it! Enjoy
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