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What Is Thyme?
Belonging to the mint family (Lamiaceae), thyme ( =Thymus vulgaris) is a perennial herb used in many kinds of cuisines around the world, from southern Europe and the Mediterranean to Central America, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States.
Available in both fresh and dried form, thyme is recognizable by its herbaceous, earthy flavor and small, pale green leaves. Thyme holds up well to long cooking times and high temperatures, making it the perfect addition to heavy dishes like stews and pasta sauces.
8 Common Varieties of Thyme
There are over 350 known varieties of thyme in the world, each with a distinct scent and appearance. While common thyme and lemon thyme are the varieties most commonly used for culinary purposes, there are a few other popular varieties beloved by gardeners and natural medicine practitioners. The most common forms of thyme include:
- Common Thyme (T. vulgaris, aka English thyme): The most popular form of thyme, which is used to make the dried thyme seasoning available in every grocery store.
- Lemon Thyme (T. x.citriodorus): The second most commonly used form of thyme in cooking, lemon thyme has a similar appearance to common thyme with a distinctive lemon flavor and aroma.
- French Thyme (T. vulgaris): Another variation of common thyme that is grown in France and primarily used in French and Creole cooking, as well as European and Mediterranean cuisine.
- Woolly Thyme (T. pseudolanuginosus): A form of gray-colored garden thyme frequently used in rock gardens.
- Creeping Thyme (T. praecox): Also known as mother of thyme, this tall flowering form of thyme is primarily used for gardening purposes.
- Wild Thyme (T. serphyllum): A bushy, colorful variety of thyme which can have green, gold, or mixed color leaves and bright red and purple flowers.
- Elfin Thyme (T. serphyllum elfin): A creeping variety of thyme recognizable by its pink and purple flowers and fragrant leaves, commonly used in gardens.
- Caraway Thyme (T. herba barona): A low growing garden thyme most commonly used as a ground cover, recognizable by its caraway seed scent.
3 Ways to Dry Thyme
There are a few options for drying thyme, depending on the time frame and materials available.
- Hang Drying: A traditional air-drying method, which involves bundling together pruned and cleaned fresh thyme using a string, twine, or rubber band. Hang the small bunches on a nail or hook in a warm, dark place with good airflow and low humidity. After 1 to 2 weeks, once the leaves have completely dried, remove the leaves by running fingers down the stem, and store the thyme in a mason jar or other airtight container.
- Oven Drying: A quicker method of drying thyme, in which fresh thyme stems are placed in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and dried slowly in a 100°F oven for 24 hours. Once the stems have cooled to room temperature, remove the leaves by hand.
- Dehydrating: The quickest method of drying thyme requires a food dehydrator. Place the thyme in the dehydrator at 100°F for 1 to 2 hours until completely dry. Strip and store.
What Are the Best Substitutes for Thyme?
Marjoram and parsley are both good substitutes for fresh thyme, as they have a similar flavor profile to the herb. It’s important to note that neither of these herbs hold up as well to prolonged heat and should be added later in the cooking process. Tarragon is also a suitable substitute for thyme in chicken and fish dishes, while rosemary makes the better substitute in lamb and pork recipes.
When substituting for dried thyme, the best option is Italian seasoning, which contains thyme and other subtle herbs that will replicate the flavor of dried thyme. Cooks can also opt to swap in dried herbs like basil or oregano, which will add the desired herbal flavor.
What Are the Health Benefits of Thyme?
Thyme is packed with a number of beneficial vitamins and minerals. In addition to containing tons of vitamin C and vitamin A, thyme and oil of thyme are also rich in fiber, iron, manganese, copper, calcium, and riboflavin. Thyme also contains traces of potassium, vitamin B6, folate, zinc, and phosphorous. This aromatic herb also has antiseptic and antibacterial properties, thanks to its active compounds and essential oils like thymol, which is known for fighting off bacteria and fungi.
12 Thyme Recipes With Thyme
- Gordon Ramsay’s Rack of Lamb: Before oven-roasting his rack of lamb, Chef Ramsay sears the meat to get a nice brown crust and then bastes it in butter, garlic, and thyme to give the crust extra flavor.
- Pork Loin with Thyme: Roasted tenderloin seasoned with kosher salt, black pepper, and thyme and coated in a balsamic reduction.
- Roasted Lemon Thyme Chicken: A whole roasted chicken seasoned with thyme, garlic, kosher salt, and black pepper and stuffed with lemon, thyme sprigs, and more garlic.
- Herb Bread Loaf: An herbaceous bread loaf made with thyme, rosemary, basil, and oregano.
- Chicken Pot Pie: A classic chicken pot pie recipe wrapped in a thyme pastry consisting of flour, butter, egg, fresh thyme leaves, kosher salt, and ice water.
- Heirloom Tomato Tart: A summery tart made with a flavorful herb and ricotta base, sliced heirloom tomatoes, and fresh thyme and basil.
- Mashed Potatoes With Thyme: Hot boiled potatoes mashed with heavy cream, butter, and fresh thyme leaves.
- Red Wine Braised Short Ribs: Braised short ribs made with a bouquet garni of fresh herbs including thyme, oregano, rosemary, and bay leaves.
- Thyme Lemonade: A refreshing spin on a classic, made with fresh lemon juice, thyme-infused simple syrup, and cold water. Garnished with a sprig of fresh thyme.
- Thyme-Roasted Carrots: Carrots tossed in olive oil and fresh thyme, roasted in a 400ºF oven until tender.
- Berry and Thyme Jam: Homemade jam made with stewed strawberries, blueberries, maple syrup, and fresh thyme.
- Mushroom Risotto With Thyme: A traditional Italian Arborio rice dish made with sliced mushrooms, white wine, chicken broth, heavy cream, and fresh thyme.
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