Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Some of the most iconic song lyrics ever written…
What is thyme?
Thyme, pronounced “time”, is a member of the genus Thymus of aromatic perennial evergreen herbs. It has medicinal and ornamental uses, but is most commonly used for culinary reasons and one of the most popular fresh herbs.
The thyme plant is robust and hardy so it withstands harsh weather and can be transferred in and outdoors depending on the season. It is fragrant and grows fast, making it ideal for the garden.
What Does It Taste Like?
Thyme is best described as having undertones of grass and wood with floral notes. As well as being earthy. Lemon thyme, of course, also has citrus.
How to use Thyme
All parts of the thyme plant can be used with the exception of the root system.
Leaves can be added at any stage of cooking and provide more flavor the longer they are cooked. They can also be used raw in salads and as a garnish.
Stems can be added to sauces and stews for flavor, but don’t break down, so you will fish them out before serving.
Thinner parts of the stem can be finely chopped or blended into salad dressing and marinades.
Common thyme and lemon thyme are the most popular varieties used in the kitchen. Lemon thyme is similar common thyme, but offers, you guessed it, a lemony scent and flavor. In most recipes, they can be used interchangeably.
Other types of thyme that aren’t common culinary ingredients include:
- Woolly thyme
- Creeping thyme
- Wild thyme
- Elfin thyme
Fresh vs. Dried
Dried thyme tastes nearly identical to fresh thyme as long as it is prepared correctly. By that, I mean rehydrated in some way. You don’t need to allow it to reconstitute in water or other liquid, just make sure it is added to a recipe with some moisture so it can freshen.
To substitute fresh for dried or vice versa, the general rule is 1 tablespoon of fresh for 1 teaspoon of dried. Rub dried thyme between your palms before adding to a recipe. It will release natural oils and help build flavor.
Remember that dried herbs do start to lose potency the moment they are opened. Chopped herbs are at best flavor for 6 months and start to mute thereafter. I discard any dried herbs more than a year old.
I keep track by marking the lids with the date opened using freezer tape and a marker or my handy dandy label maker.