Getting to know your spice rack is one good and necessary way to become a
successful college cook. To kick your cooking up a notch, make an effort to understand the basic flavor profiles of the herbs — both dried and fresh — in your own spice rack or in the grocery store. Today, it’s time to talk about thyme.
Thyme (pronounced “time”) is a fragrant, woody-stemmed aromatic plant from the mint family. Its small leaves are used as a culinary herb, frequently in Mediterranean, Italian and Provencal French cuisines. Lending a minty, tea-like flavor to foods, thyme pairs well with lamb, poultry, and tomatoes and is often used in soups, stews, stock and sauces.
Fun facts about thyme
- The word “thyme” is derived from the Greek word “thumos” and/or the Latin “fumus,” which both mean smoke.
- “Thumos” also stands for courage. In ancient times, the Greeks believed that thyme symbolized bravery, and ladies would present their chosen protectors with scarves sprayed with this herb.
- Thyme flowers are male on the first day and female on the second (and some flowers are only female).
Storing and substituting thyme
Fresh thyme should be refrigerated, where it will keep for about a week. You can also freeze the leaves on a baking sheet, then store them in zip-lock baggies in the freezer for up to six months. Dried thyme will keep for up to six months in a cool, dry place, stored in an airtight container.
When dried, thyme retains much of its flavor. Because it is more intense and concentrated in dried form, dried thyme can be substituted for fresh thyme at the ratio of 1 tsp dried to 3 tsp fresh. Remember, too, that differences between dry and fresh thyme affect how you use them in your recipes. For instance, you should always add dried thyme earlier in the cooking process, since it takes longer to release its flavor. But fresh thyme should be added at the end of the cooking process to maintain its flavor/aroma.
Thyme’s tiny leaves are quickly removed by pulling the stems through your fingers from top to bottom, against the direction of the stems. On average, six sprigs will give you a tablespoon of leaves. You can chop the leaves or simply add them to your recipes whole, or lightly crush them to release the flavorful oils.
Hey, college cooks! Ready to start playing around with thyme?
Check out some of these tasty, thyme-filled recipes: