Thyme - The Virgin's Humility

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a delicate green, perennial herb with a faint clove aftertaste. It is often used herb in French cuisine. Leaves and sprigs are used in salads as garnishes, in clam chowder, and French, Creole, and Cajun cuisines. Thyme works well with veal, lamb, beef, poultry, fish, poultry stuffing, pâtés, sausages, stews, soups, stocks, bread, herbed butters, herbed mayonnaise, flavored vinegars, mustard, and bean and lentil casseroles and its flavor blends well with those of lemon, garlic, and basil.

Thyme is indigenous to the Mediterranean area. It came to America with the first settlers. Recognizing the antiseptic properties of thyme, the Egyptians used it in the embalming process and the Ancient Greeks found it to be a good fumigant.

There are many plants and herbs associated with the nativity. One legend has it that thyme was included among the hay used to make a bed for the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child, so it is often considered one of “Mary’s bedstraws” of which there are several.

The thyme was on Sweet Mary’s Bed,
To bring her courage rare,
While shepherds lifted up their hearts,
In silent joyful prayer.
~From Herbs and Herb Lore of Colonial America by the Colonial Dames of America.

In Marian Garden literature, thyme is commonly referred to as The Virgin’s Humility. It is one of those cases where an attribute of the plant seemed to symbolize a virtue of the Blessed Mother. Am still looking for the specific explanations of connections of thyme to this virtue of Mary’s humility. Most likely is seems that as a plant that is a delicate creeping plant that lies low to the ground it would be symbolic of the lowly nature of humility.

St. Alphonse Ligouri writes beautifully and in depth of the humility of Mary in The Glories of Mary. Speaking of a revelation to St. Bridget, he says, “God was pleased to make known to us that the humility of His Blessed Mother was such that she was humility itself.”

Mary’s Magnificat reflects most profoundly her deep humility of heart, open to divine grace.
Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
~Douay-Rheims translation

So as you use this herb in your kitchen's it can be a time to meditate on the Our Lady's humility, for as St. Bernard says, "Humility is the foundation and guardian of all virtues."

Creamy Baked Fettuccine with Asiago and Thyme
1/2 pound fettuccine pasta
1 cup grated Asiago cheese, plus 1/4 cup
1 (8-ounce) containers creme fraiche
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 tablespoons fresh chopped thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Reserve 1/3 cup of the pasta cooking water

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Add fettuccine to boiling water and cook until tender but still firm, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta. Reserve 1/3 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Combine the 1 cups Asiago cheese, creme fraiche, Parmesan, thyme, salt, pepper, cooked pasta, and pasta cooking liquid. Toss gently until all the ingredients are combined and the pasta is coated. Place in a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup Asiago cheese. Bake about 25 minutes, until golden brown on top. Let sit for a few minutes before serving. Makes approx. 4 servings (recipe easily doubled).

Edited to add:

I meant to add some information about creme fraiche as I had never cooked with this before and know that it might be challening to find. Creme faraiche is a traditional soured cream commonly used in Europe. It's more diffiuclt to find in US except in specialty stores and is quite expensive, I guess. On-line I found many "recipes" for making a suitable variation to use in recipes which call for it. Basically you take a cup of heavy cream, heat on low until it is tepid, add a tablespoon of cultured buttermilk. Stir together and pour into a glass jar or bowl. Partially cover and let stand at room temperature for 8 to 24 hours, or until thickened. It keeps for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

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  1. Yummy recipes Mary, thyme is my go-to herb of choice, looking for humility no doubt :) Love these posts, so beautiful!

  2. Very nice blog, very nice post!!

  3. Hi Mary,

    I am grateful for all the work and dedication you, all of you, put in this articles. This blog is one of a kind. Best of luck and inspiration.
    God bless you all!

    Listen to Divine Office Podcast and Pray with us!

  4. I always substitute sour cream for creme fraiche.