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Shakespeare in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" has Oberon speak of "a bank where the wild thyme blows," and this is probably the most often quoted reference to a herb.

Thyme is a member of the mint family, and there are about 350 species in genus. There are thymes that stand upright and those that creep.

Cooking With Thyme

The thyme that is used in French cooking is Thymus vulgarus, a small sub-shrub with grey-green aromatic leaves and white or rose-purple flowers in late spring.

It is also wonderful in New England Clam Chowder, creamed onions, poultry stuffing and with salmon and chicken. Lemon thyme is also a small shrub with clusters of pale lilac flowers in summer and makes a nice addition to tea.

Thymes come in varied leaf colors: pale and dark green, gold and silver and with variegation. The flowers range from the white through pink to purple.

Thyme in Rock Gardens

The mat forming woolly thyme has the best texture but only sparse pink flowers in the summer. There are so many different thymes that can populate an entire rock garden. They prefer sun, and must have excellent drainage.

Divide plants in the spring or fall, and cook with the leaves of whichever plant is not flowering.

Thymes are both useful and handsome, so take time to savour all of its worthy attributes.

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