All About Thyme

Lemon thyme (Thymus x citriodorus), overhead view
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Thyme (pronounced "time") is a fragrant, small-leafed, woody-stemmed culinary herb that is used frequently in Mediterranean, Italian and Provençal French cuisines. It pairs well with lamb, poultry, and tomatoes, and is often used in soups, stews, stocks, and sauces.

Other herbs with which thyme can be successfully combined include rosemary, marjoram, parsley, oregano, and bay leaf.

Thyme Varieties

While there many varieties of thyme, the two types that are mainly used in cooking are common thyme and lemon thyme. Both have sweet, mildly pungent flavors and are highly aromatic. Lemon thyme has slightly more of a citrus flavor.

Thyme Uses

Thyme is the main component of Herbes de Provence, a blend that also includes marjoram, rosemary, summer savory, lavender flowers and other dried herbs. Thyme is also typically included in the traditional bouquet garni, a bundle of herbs and aromatics used in making stocks and sauces. In its dried form, thyme is also a component of the basic sachet d'epices, which is also used to add flavor and aroma to stocks.

Cooking With Thyme

Whole sprigs of fresh thyme may be used when roasting meats and poultry or vegetables, but because of their tough, woody stems, the sprigs should be removed before serving.

The tiny leaves are easily removed from the stems by pulling the stems through your fingers from top to bottom, against the direction of the stems. Six average sprigs will yield about a tablespoon of leaves.

If just the leaves are used, they can be given a quick chop or simply added to the recipe whole. The leaves may also be lightly crushed before adding them, which releases the volatile, flavorful oils.

Storing Thyme

Fresh thyme should be kept refrigerated, where it will keep for about a week. It can also be frozen on a baking sheet and then stored in zipper baggies in the freezer for up to six months.

In its dried form, thyme will keep for about six months in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Thyme retains much of its flavor when dried. When substituting dry for fresh, use one-third as much dried thyme as you would use fresh. So if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves, you'd use 1 teaspoon of dried thyme.