Lemon thyme is less well known than some of its fellow herbs, but it adds a uniquely delicious flavour to your cooking, and makes an attractive, pollinator-friendly addition to your garden. Read on for a closer look at this sometimes surprising little plant.
What is lemon thyme?
Lemon thyme is one of approximately 350 varieties of thyme, loved for its sweet citrus aroma and taste. It shares the minty, earthy and floral notes of regular thyme, but with a subtle essence of lemon that neutralises the bitterness sometimes found in its more well-known relative. It’s scent and flavour are at their strongest in summer, just before it begins to bloom.
A native to sunny Mediterranean climates, this low-growing shrub is a popular choice for planting between pavers, as it is resistant to occasional foot traffic, and releases a delicious cloud of scent whenever it’s foliage is disturbed. In appearance, it is similar to regular thyme, with long, thin sprigs and tiny spear-shaped green leaves. It has pretty, chartreuse-tinged foliage, with pink or lavender coloured flowers that are particularly popular with pollinators and will attract bees, butterflies and other useful insects to your garden.
How to use it
Lemon thyme can be used to flavour poultry, seafood, and vegetables, and will accentuate the natural flavour profiles of fish and meat dishes in particular. It can be added to marinades, stews, soups, salads, sauces, bouquet garnis and stuffing, and a few sprigs also make an attractive garnish. You can substitute it for lemon, lemon juice or zest to add a subtle earthiness to a dish, or substitute it for thyme to add some zesty brightness.
Lemon thyme is at its best when fresh. Add it to your cooking at the last minute, and chop the leaves just before you use them for maximum freshness and flavour.
Like regular thyme, lemon thyme contains antioxidants, which can help your body guard against cell damage that leads to serious diseases like cancer. It is also a source of vitamin C, which helps maintain a healthy immune system, vitamin A for healthy eyesight and skin, calcium for healthy bones and teeth, and potassium, which can help regulate fluid balance.
Thyme tea is sometimes used as a folk remedy for sore throats, although it’s efficacy has still to be proven by modern science. It does have certain antiseptic qualities, however, thanks to a substance called thymol, which is used as an antiseptic in mouthwashes and some toothpastes.
There are several different varieties of lemon thyme, each with subtly different flavours and ways to add interest to your garden.
Creeping Golden Lemon Thyme has attractive, green-gold variegated leaves, and produces pretty lavender flower spikes in the summer.
Lemon Supreme is the hardiest variety of lemon thyme, with the strongest lemon flavour and scent. It produces light mauve flowers in mid to late summer.
Lime Thyme, as the name suggests, tastes and smells more like lime than lemon. It has chartreuse green leaves and lavender pink flowers.
Orange Thyme grows particularly close to the ground, and has a taste and smell that is closer to the orange.
Silver-Edged Lemon Thyme has green leaves with silver edges and produces pink flowers in the summer. It has a milder lemon scent and flavour.
Golden Lemon Thyme has a highly attractive yellow-gold foliage, with a more subtle scent and flavour than other varieties.
If you’d like to try the delicate citrus flavour of lemon thyme for yourself, here are some of our favourite recipes from the internet.
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