Thymus vulagaris is a small perennial plant with mighty flavor and aroma courtesy of the tiny dark green leaves we call thyme. The plant grows from 12 to 18 inches tall. The leaves, known for their spicy, resinous aroma, measure just one-quarter inch long and one-tenth inch wide. Dried thyme is available as whole leaves or ground.
One of the kitchen’s most versatile herbs, thyme is used in stuffing and sausages and to flavor meats, stews, fish and game. You’ll find it in seasoning blends like bouquet garni, French herbes de Provence, Caribbean jerk spice and Middle Eastern za’atar. It is wonderful in citrus thyme vinaigrette for spinach salad or in almost any marinade for chicken or fish. Surprisingly, it is also delicious in desserts like poached pears and lemon bars.
With a long history of travel around the globe, thyme comes from humble beginnings in Southwestern Europe and Northern Africa. Most thyme imported into the United States is from Spain, Morocco, France and oddly, given the geography, Poland.
BELIEVE IT…OR NOT
Perhaps because the flavor of its tiny leaves is so bold, thyme has long been associated with courage, from the time of the ancient Greeks through the Middle Ages, when ladies embroidered sprigs of thyme on the scarves of knights going off to battle. Ancient Greeks and Romans used it to flavor cheese and liquor, but Assyrian doctors and chemists believed in its medicinal properties. The essential oil of thyme is still used as an antiseptic in mouthwash.
Spring Thyme Salmon
Thyme and Cinnamon Poached Pears