Common thyme is a herb known by the Latin name Thymus vulgaris, which in Croatian carries many different titles, including majčina dušica, bukovica, vrisak, materka, čabrac or “wild basil” (divlji bosiljak ). Although it is often called simply “thyme”, it is actually a related, yet distinct plant. The two differ not only in their appearance and colour of the flowers, but also in flavour, as the common thyme is mildly bitter. The common thyme grows as a bush with beautiful dark pink flowers on rocky terrain with lots of sun. It can often be found on the edges of forests and meadows, which receive lots of sunlight. It is believed that it originates from the Mediterranean, and it is often used in cuisines from this area, characterised by a warmer climate, which also includes the Croatian coastline.
Gardeners often plant it next to plants that are susceptible to scale insects because the common thyme repels pests with its unique scent. Its scent is the result of essential oils found in the leaves and flowers of this plant, which are used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments involving the respiratory system, headaches and stomach problems, and they can also be used as a sedative. Its flowers are picked from late spring to early autumn and they are dried in the shade. Its dry leaves can be used to make tea by simply pouring hot water over them. The common thyme is then left to sit in the water for a half an hour before the tea is strained and ready to drink.
When fresh, it is commonly used for cooking because it gives food a specific kind of bitterness and a unique aroma. Because the aroma is so intense, it is added gradually and in small quantities so that it doesn’t overpower other ingredients, but rather complement them. Like most herbs, common thyme should be added at the very end of preparing a meal to preserve its properties. Common thyme pairs well with other herbs, such as parsley, marjoram or bay laurel, it is a very common condiment for potatoes and sauces served with pasta, and can be a great spice for fresh salads.