Healthy and home-made

Give the gift of thyme. Photo: Getty Images
Give the gift of thyme. Photo: Getty Images
What do you think the record would be for the number of scorched almonds given to a teacher at Christmas?

This year be the one to stand out in the crowd by offering a healthier, home-made option.

The end of the year is a very busy and also costly time, so I have listed a few recipes below which can be made as gifts, with a healthy twist.

Some people can be really difficult to buy for, but some home-made perishable goods are welcomed by most.

Herb salt

This adds an X-factor to eggs. Himalayan salt contains minerals which help with fluid balance when added sparingly to food after cooking. Rosemary is a woody herb which is often used as an antioxidant to support brain function and memory and also metabolise oestrogen through the liver more efficiently; oregano and thyme have antimicrobial activity, supporting immune function. Sage is often used for reducing hot sweats in menopausal women.


¼ cup coarse pink Himalayan salt

3 sprigs rosemary, about 10cm each in length

6 sage leaves

1 sprig oregano

2-3 sprigs thyme


Pick the herbs freshly and discard the stems.

Add all the leaves to a spice grinder or food processor and blend until smooth. Add salt and give a quick pulse so you still have some texture in the salt. If you prefer a smoother blend, just add salt at the beginning.

Spread herb salt over a lined baking tray and leave to sit for 24 hours to dry out the fresh herbs. If it is humid, it may take longer.

Store in glass jars for up to one year in a cool spot on your bench. Flavours will degrade over time, so it is best used within the first few months.


Lemon thyme syrup

The wild thyme that grows all over the hills in Central Otago has to endure extreme temperature changes, from hard frosts to searingly hot summer days, often without water for long periods.

This creates a more robust, resilient plant, as it has had to adapt, resulting in a more potent antimicrobial activity of any other European species.

It has been found to contain almost three times as much thymol, thyme’s primary antimicrobial agent.

Thyme has been used in herbal medicine for centuries for supporting respiratory health and you only have to go for a walk among it to feel the opening of your airways.

Note: When sourcing thyme, it is fine if it is flowering. As you use the whole plant in this recipe avoid any areas which could be sprayed. Please check you are sourcing the correct plant.


1 handful fresh thyme – best picked late morning, once the dew has evaporated

2 cups water

½ cup raw honey/manuka honey

½ cup freshly juiced lemon


Add thyme and water to a pot and bring to a gentle simmer, leaving the lid off. Allow it to reduce slightly, then take off the heat.

Once cooled a little, pour the liquid through a strainer then add honey. Once dissolved, add lemon juice.

Store in a glass bottle or jar for up to 1 month in the fridge.

This syrup is great added to some hot water if feeling chesty or congested, or even with your summer G & T.

Nacho/taco spice mix

Serving size: 2 Tbsp per 500g meat


4 Tbsp paprika

2 Tbsp Himalayan salt

4 tsp coconut or brown sugar

½ tsp baking soda

2 tsp chilli flakes

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp onion powder

2 tsp dried oregano leaves

2 tsp coriander powder

½ tsp cumin powder

½ tsp black pepper

¼ tsp cayenne pepper


Add all ingredients into a food processor, spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Combine for about 20 seconds, until combined.

Store in airtight jars for up to 3 months.

Note: Check expiry dates on your herbs and spices before using as they do lose flavour over time.

- Dee is a Central Otago-based naturopath and nutritionist.