Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Herbs to Drive the Cold Winter Away: Sage and Thyme

This month features not one, but two smelly plants. Sage and thyme are both highly adaptable, easy-to-grow herbs that no garden should go without. Especially when it's cold!
Salvia officinalis Meets Thymus vulgaris
Salvia officinalis and Thymus vulgaris are cousins from the Lamiaceae Family. Both are Mediterranean/European herbs that are now grown worldwide in just about all climatic zones except for the most extreme, where they can be grown indoors in pots. Both are packed with thujones, which are toxic in substantial quantity, but antimicrobial in the small amounts usually taken. Sage has cineole and camphor to boot. And thyme is full of (guess what) thymol, also a strong antibacterial and antiviral substance. I guess that's why Listerine includes it. Both herbs have been shown to be strongly antibacterial in scientific studies (that means formal and peer-reviewed, as opposed to me in my kitchen drinking sage tea and blogging about it). The German Commission E approves thyme for bronchitis, whooping cough, and other illnesses of the respiratory tract. That's a seal of approval in my book!

Both herbs can be chewed on, cooked with, or used to make tea/tisanes, gargles, tinctures, and ointments. The essential oils can be used for a therapeutic steam when you think you may be coming down with a respiratory bug. Both have been used for centuries to soothe tummies as well. (Note: Neither can be used safely by pregnant women or nursing moms, due to the potent thujones.)

This weekend, Chef Riccardo will share a recipe that uses both herbs, and pumpkin, to drive the cold winter away in a particularly delicious manner. I hope you'll join us, and get your risotto pans ready!

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