Thyme honey constitutes one of the more fragrant types. It is a much-beloved honey, and, aside from in Greece, it is also produced in Cyprus, Italy, Morocco, France, Spain and New Zealand. It is considered the finest
of floral honey in Greece, and is distinguished by a distinctive floral aroma, light colour and a certain intense sweetness—which is at times conveyed by a characteristic ‘burning’ in the throat.
Thyme honey in Greece is produced primarily from the plantsCoridothymus capitatus (thyme), Satureja thymbra (savoury of Crete, or pink savoury), Origanum vulgare (oregano) and Thymus vulgaris (wild thyme).
It is estimated that every year approximately 1500 tonnes of thyme honey are produced in Greece, mainly on the islands and in some coastal regions of Greece, particularly on Crete, Kythira and the Dodecanese Islands.
The etymology of thyme, in Greek ‘thymari’—or ‘thymos’, as it was called in ancient Greece—derives from the ancient word ‘Thyo’, which meant ‘fume’, and which later came to be used in the word for ‘sacrifice’ (θυσιάζω-θυσία).
This designation can be traced back to the occasions of sacrifice in temples, where dried branches of thyme were burned; hence the earlier meanings of the Latin-based words, fumigate-fumigation.
The Sumerians had used thyme going back to at least 3500 BC as both a seasoning and medicine, while the Egyptians, who called it ‘Tham’, used it to embalm their dead.
From the age of Homer, thyme was used as a spice and was often added to wine; it also served as a symbol of strength and virtue.
The fragrant thyme honey of Mount Hymettos in Athens was well known in ancient times, and was exported to the then known world.
Thyme is an essential source of nectar for the beekeeper in Greece, and its yield in honey is directly linked to climatic conditions.
Fundamental to the full flow of nectar is the amount of rainfall from mid- to late spring and hot and humid weather during flowering.
A synthesis of very high temperatures and dry winds during this period may lead to a cessation of the secretion of nectar, resulting in the absence of harvest.
The essential oil of thyme is used both in pharmaceutics and aromatherapy. Honey made from thyme has been an object of research for its prospective anti-cancer properties, due to its high levels of phenolic compounds.