Thyme: A Versatile Kitchen Herb
You’ve likely enjoyed the herb thyme in many dishes. You may even have it growing in your home garden, as thyme is not only delicious to eat but also lovely to smell and quite decorative.
Thyme, of course, is used in many recipes, ranging from meats and poultry to fish, seafood and vegetables. It also pairs particularly well with game dishes. In addition to its culinary uses, thyme is also reputed to have a number of medicinal and therapeutic qualities.
Bottom line is that “thyme really is on your side.”
Extremely versatile and one of the most popular herbs in the culinary world, thyme is a perennial from the mint family. Thyme is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean area and has many cultivars, but the most common variety is garden (French) thyme, which has light grayish-green leaves and a pungent, somewhat minty, light-lemon aroma. Other “culinary” sub-varieties include English, lemon thyme, orange thyme, silver thyme and caraway thyme.
Where can you find fresh thyme?
Thyme is sold both fresh and dried at Nino’s. Our fresh thyme is available year round and is sold in bunches of sprigs. You’ll find it MUCH more flavorful than dried, but it generally doesn’t keep well for more than 10 days, so depending on your needs, it may be less convenient. If you do choose fresh thyme, my best storage tip is to wrap it in a dampened paper towel and place it in a sealed plastic container in your fridge.
How do you use fresh thyme?
If you’re using fresh thyme for the very 1st time in recipes, you’ll usually see it measured in bunches, sprigs or by the teaspoon or tablespoon. To measure a tablespoon, remove the tiny leaves from the somewhat firm “sprigs” by either scraping them with the back of a knife or by pulling them through the fingers or tines of a fork. The small, softer stems toward the very top of the sprig are often so tender that they can be used as part of your measurement as well. The resulting leaves are usually lightly chopped and then measured. Chopping also helps to release the oils in the leaves that give thyme much of their flavor.
If you’re using dry leaf thyme, on the other hand, you’ll want to keep it in an airtight container in a cool place. If you do that, it easily has six months of good, usable shelf life. Dry thyme is what most people keep around the kitchen because you never know when a recipe might call for it, and thankfully, thyme retains its flavor in dry form much better than most herbs. However, when you can plan ahead, there’s nothing like fresh thyme in your recipes.
What to learn more about thyme?
Nino’s has a terrific packet of information from one of our live cooking shows that we devoted entirely to fresh herbs. The packet entitled Nino’s Fresh Herbs contains additional tips and recipes for use with many of your favorite herbs.
And of course, we have a number of recipes on Nino’s website that use thyme. Here are several:
- Pan Fried Chicken with Fresh Thyme & Mustard
- Herb Roasted Red Skin Potatoes
- Black Bean Cakes with Smoked Chicken
- Chicken & Mushroom Burgers
- Italian Vinaigrette
Give fresh thyme a try in one of your next recipes. You’ll enjoy its aromatic flavor as a distinctive departure from basil or marjoram and a welcome addition to your seasoning repertoire.