Thyme is a fragrant, small-leafed, green herb. It was first grown around 3000 BC in Persia (now Iran). The Egyptians used thyme as a symbol of happiness and good fortunes. The ancient Greeks used it in their baths and burnt it as an incense in their temples, believing it was a source of courage. Over many years of cultivation, thyme has been developed to have many different varieties from culinary types such as German, French, Winter, Lemon, and Caraway, or landscaping types such as Creeping, Wooly, and Mother of Thyme.
Thyme contains vitamins B vitamins, β-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin E, vitamin C, and folic acid, as well as minerals like potassium, iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, selenium, and antioxidants. Thyme contains many essential oils that help make other nutritious foods more flavorful and is rarely eaten in a quantity to gain significant nutritional value.
Buying & Storing
Thyme is often sold in bundles of fresh springs. Choose stems with bright colored leaves without discoloration, dark spots, or bad smells. Thyme leaves and flowers can be eaten. The thin woody stems should be removed from dishes as they can pose a choking hazard. Before using, rinse thyme in a sink under a gentle stream of cold water. Repeat as necessary to remove all soil and garden pests. Gently pat dry with clean towels.
Fresh thyme should be wrapped stems and leaves loosely in a damp paper towel and placed in a plastic bag or airtight container in the refrigerator. Thyme can also be dried or frozen for long term storage. To dry thyme, bundle 6-7 stems and hang in a dry, dark place with good air circulation. Once dry, remove leaves from stems until they are broken down into small pieces. Store in an air-tight container for up to 1 year. Freeze thyme leaves on a baking sheet until frozen through then pack into a container or plastic bag and store in a freezer for up to 1 year.
Seasoning – Thyme has a herbal flavor that is floral, lemony, woodsy, and can be both sweet with a mint-like flavor or savory with a peppery punch. Pair thyme with basil, cardamom, coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, lavender, nutmeg, oregano, parsley, rosemary, citrus, sumac, and sesame.
Raw – Thyme is a core ingredient in classic herb mixes like French herbes de provence, Turkish za’atar, Creole blackening, American Italian seasoning, and Caribbean jerk seasoning. Add leaves or flowers to egg dishes like omelets or egg salad and potato dishes like potato salad, roasted new potatoes, or mashed potatoes. Season baked or roasted dishes like chicken pot pie, roast beef, lamb, or salmon. Pair thyme with sweet olive oil cake, strawberry shortcake, or honey and custard. Add stems to drinks like bourbon old fashioneds, lemonade, fruity drinks, or make tea. Blend thyme with balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, black pepper, olive oil, and honey for a bright vinaigrette for salads or marinade (try different vinegars, citrus, and additions like mustard!).
Sauté – Add leaves to sautéed mushrooms, scallops, or roasted vegetables like carrots, squash, or sweet potatoes. Finish sautéed pierogi, porkchops, or fish with a browned butter, thyme, and lemon (or caper) sauce made in the same pan.