Wild Thyme – Miscellany of the 22 Botanicals

IN

Every year I head off to the South of France with my family.

Not only is the wine and food out of this world but it is great for foraging too. Over the years I still can’t quite beat the experience I had when I first discovered this little corner of Europe. It was just me an my partner back then and we spent two weeks clambering up and down mountains. The smell of rosemary and lavender both take me back to those heady days as does the smell of wild thyme. I can still picture the slope that was abundant with all three and when I let myself drift back to those days I can still smell the strong thyme smell that was seemingly released with every footstep.

Mediterranean tonic water

This recipe for Mediterranean tonic water was inspired by that trip and it is a variation of an original tonic recipe that I used can be found here in something I wrote for the Guardian a while back.

When creating a new recipe it is good to sit back and work out what flavours work together well. This is the same for cooking as it is drinks making. Much of the time groups will work well, warming spices live cloves, nutmeg and allspice for example or in this case, rosemary, lavender and thyme as they are all Mediterranean herbs.

Ingredients

  • 1l water
  • 350g sugar
  • Zest and juice of 2 limes
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 25g Cinchoa bark (Don’t use powdered)
  • 28g citric acid
  • 2 sticks of lemongrass
  • 1 sprig Rosemary
  • 3 sprigs Thyme
  • 2 sprigs Lavender (with flowers)
  • 2-4 cardamom pods
  • 10 allspice berries
  • Soda water

Equipment:

  • Accurate small scales
  • Large saucepan
  • Wooden spoon
  • Funnel
  • Small sieve
  • Muslin/cheesecloth
  • A bottle or two

Put all the ingredients except the soda water into your pan and simmer gently for 20-25 minutes. Stir to ensure the sugar has fully dissolved.

Allow to cool, then strain the syrup into bottles. It will keep in the fridge for about a month. When using, dilute at around 4:1 with soda water to make fizzy tonic water.

This recipe yields a one-litre bottle with a bit left over. The extra bit can be frozen as ice cubes and used in gin and soda water, making a gin and tonic that slowly becomes more tonic-y, and therefore more refreshing, as it warms.

Wild thyme

Thyme usually gets used for seasoning meat and is overlooked as a cocktail herb

About Thyme

Thyme usually gets used for seasoning meat and is overlooked as a cocktail herb in favour of its more brash cousins like mint, vanilla and even lavender. But to overlook thyme is to miss out on a wealth of possibility. I find it especially useful in the summer months as it seems to refresh and revitalize. Even just a few sprigs infused in a bottle of wine can perk up the blandest of grapes.

Although thyme grows naturally and abundantly around the Med it grows across Europe too and is less frequently available as a wild herb in more Northern climes such as the UK and I have found it growing readily in Scotland. It favours chalk hills, heath land and can sometimes be found in sand dunes. To guarantee a steady supply buy a plant from the garden centre and plant it out in early spring in dry and gritty soil and protect from the harshest of winter temperatures with a good quantity of straw mulch. On a personal note I’d also say to not let it dry out, I’ve lost a few plants from my sporadic watering technique!

Morning thyme

You don’t even need alcohol to sample its delights, this very simple soft drink will have you feeling refreshed, especially in the summer months.

Ingredients

  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 30ml/1 fl oz honey syrup
  • Bitter lemon (see below)

To make the honey syrup mix equal parts boiling water and honey and stir.  Muddle thyme in a glass, pour over the syrup and stir frantically. Strain into an ice filled tumbler and top with bitter lemon.

To make it a non-mocktial you could add 30ml tequila and call it, “forever tequila thyme”.

It’s Lavender Thyme

One of the greatest things about creating thyme drinks is that you can come up with a ridiculous amount of puns to use as names for each one.

Ingredients

  • 200ml/7 fl oz water
  • 200g/7 oz sugar
  • ¼ cup dried lavender flowers (or ½ cup of fresh)
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 1 litre/2 pints sparkling bitter lemon soda
  • 250ml/8 fl oz dry gin
  • 125ml/4 fl oz lemon juice
  • Thin lemon wheels for garnish

Bring the water to the boil and stir in the sugar until fully dissolved. Drop in the thyme and lavender and allow to cool.  Pour into a big ice filled jug and add the gin. Stir  vigorously for a minute then top up with bitter lemon soda to taste. To serve wipe each glass with some lemon peel and then garnish with a wheel.

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