Garden curiosities

New feature — Garden curiosities: Mega broadleaf thyme

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Broadleaf thyme: Smells like thyme, feels like a succulent

Editor’s note: This year we’re starting a new feature called Garden Curiosities. The wonderful world of plants is an endless source of fascination. As we encounter new and interesting things in our gardening adventures, we want to share what we learn with you and hope you’ll do the same.

On Good Friday, I took a quick run through the Bachman’s for some spring-tastic hostess gifts (Note: When you have a new baby, you get multiple invitations to Easter brunch. I hear that changes once the child is old enough to destroy other people’s houses.). The store was packed with bulbs, seeds, and weekend warriors. As you might expect, the greenhouse was just getting started for the season. There was a small selection of crocuses and daffodils in bloom, a huge selection of pansies, a few flats of strawberries, and a sampling of herbs.

I grabbed of pots of crocuses, then stopped cold by the herbs. Tucked between the rows of parsley and rosemary was row of GIANT THYME (aka: Broadleaf thyme, Cuban oregano, Spanish oregano, or Indian borage). The plant smelled like thyme, but its leaves were larger than a half-dollar, slightly fuzzy and very succulent.

I was both fascinated and alarmed. Was this a naturally occurring herb or a designer plant masquerading as an edible? I just had to know… Time for a Compost Cowgirl nerd report:

  • Broadleaf time is a drought tolerant plant that grows best in zone 10-12.
  • It is not actually a member of the thyme or oregano family. It is a member of the mint family.
  • Some claim that it is native to India. Others say it originated from Africa.
  • During the slave trade it was brought to the Caribbean islands and incorporated into the local cuisine.
  • The herb is very opportunistic and can be easily cloned through cuttings. It has colonized the rain forest in Asia and the arid regions of Africa and Australia.
  • Broadleaf thyme, or “Cuban Oregano” has a prominent place in Cuban cuisine. A little goes a long way. The leaves are often used in to season beans, salsa and meat dishes.
  • The leaves also have anti-inflammatory¬†properties. In India, Africa, and the Caribbean, it is often used for medicinal purposes. It can help ease sore throats, stuffy nose, coughs, and infections.
  • In Cuba, the herb is believed to stimulate lactation. It is added to a special soup for new mothers and is consumed for up to a month after childbirth.

Pretty fascinating, eh? Later this week, I plan to go back to the nursery and buy one so I can give it a try. I promise to let you know how it turns out.

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