Brightly fragrant lemon thyme carpets the side of my garden in summer and, given its historic use as a treatment for and against respiratory ailments, may be a timely additive to my favorite lemonade (see recipe for soothing lemon balm lemonade in previous blog post).
A passage from ‘A Modern Herbal’, by Mrs. M. Grieve, first published in 1931, describes the healing attributes of thyme in days long past as primarily a ‘noble strengthener of the lungs’ as well as good for a variety of non-respiratory issues including warts, sciatica, gout and dullness of sight. Modern science notes the power of thyme as an antiseptic and agent that reduces gas and bloating, among other uses.
Far from warts and whooping cough, lemon thyme is one of my favorite herbs to use the kitchen! I tie sprigs of thyme, along with parsley and bay leaves together and use them to flavor soup stock throughout the year because thyme makes survives the winter in my high South West desert garden. I love thyme tossed into a lemony vinaigrette, with olive oil, lemon juice, a bit of Dijon mustard and minced shallot or garlic. Try thyme leaves mixed with parsley, butter, salt and pepper on roasted or steamed potatoes, or mix thyme leaves into softened butter with some lemon zest for a bright compound butter. Medicinally in the kitchen, it does make a soothing tea that can alleviate gas and bloating. Steeped into my lemon balm lemonade, it adds a brisk herby note to the already refreshing mix. I made some pretty floral ice cubes with a dash of orange flower water and fresh viola blossoms from our local flower master, Shanti Rade at Whipstone Farm and added those to my lemonade. Oolala! This is now my favorite summer drink!
To add a mild lemon thyme flavor to your lemonade, simply steep a nice handful of fresh sprigs along with 1 1/2 sliced lemons, and about 1/2 cup of lemon balm leaves, if you have them, in 1-2 cups of water. Steep about 10 minutes, then strain and squeeze all the juice into a pitcher. Add water and fresh juice from another 1 1/2 lemons. Add a dash of orange flower water if you have it. If you don’t have orange blossom water, please get some! You can buy it online or in a specialty food shop that sells Mediterranean and Middle Eastern spices and foods. I put a splash into iced water, sparkling water, mint tea, and many other beverages — it adds a wonderful floral scent and slightly sweet flavor. Sweeten your lemonade with stevia, honey or maple syrup, sit back, breathe, relax and enjoy!