Thyme is keen on duress. It grows in clay or sand. It tolerates drought, tight quarters and getting trampled.
Some gardeners maintain it likes getting trampled.
Which might explain, in a twisted way, thyme's reputation as courageous. Once, the soldier bathed in thyme. He armed himself for battle with a sprig or two. He relied on thyme as antiseptic, cure-all or — failing cure — passport to the great beyond.
Overstepping, perhaps, the powers of the small, green herb. Still, thyme is handy for jobs other herbs won't stoop to. Like filling the crevices between paving stones. The crags make cramped, irregular beds, the sort the gardener rarely waters and routinely crushes.
The resourceful stuff these gaps with thyme, letting the creeping herb fill in the space with its tiny round leaves and purple flowers. Each footfall kicks up thyme's spicy summer scent.
In practice, the gardener digs in "prostrate" thyme, applies clog-trample and is rewarded with prostrate huddle. No creeping, no filling, no scenting the air summer spicy.
Perhaps one day, thyme soldiers will muster the courage to carry out their mission. Failing that, the gardener can always punch their passports and turn her attention to thyme salad.
Prep: 15 minutes
1 head butter lettuce
Fresh chives — a few spears
Fresh thyme — many sprigs
Flaky salt, such as Maldon
Simple dressing (recipe follows)
Separate lettuce leaves; wash and spin-dry. Settle in a shallow bowl, breaking up any large leaves. Snip chives into 1-inch lengths and cast onto lettuce.
Pluck the leaves off the thyme stems and add as many as you like to the salad. I like a lot.
Sprinkle salad with salt and toss. Drizzle salad with dressing (you may not need it all). Toss. Enjoy.
Whisk together 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard and salt and pepper. Whisk in 6 tablespoons olive oil.