Thyme is a delicate herb with small, rounded leaves that grow in clusters around the stems. Thyme leaves start out as a bright green and fade to gray-green as the plant matures. Thyme's flavor counters its appearance due to the plant's essential oil, thymol. It delivers layers of woodsy, savory and mint flavors. Thyme retains its flavor better than most herbs when dried, but fresh thyme is still preferred. Thyme is commonly added to season stocks, stews and soups.. Use thyme to flavor marinades with sea salt, rosemary, lemon zest and olive oil. Thyme pairs well with seafood, red meat and poultry. Thyme releases its flavors slowly, so it is favored in slow and long cooking applications. Add to root vegetables and autumn fruits, or infuse in syrups and oils.
Fun Fact: Thyme thrives as a garden herb as it is a natural insect repellent. Only honey bees are attracted to its productive flowers. Beehives near thyme sources produce savory honey. Thyme is used to season stocks, stews and soups. Thyme can be used as a stand alone herb or in savory combinations.
How to Shop
Buy packaged fresh thyme in the refrigerated produce section year-round and dried leaves in the spice aisle. You can also find thyme at many farmer's markets. Select a bunch with abundant, bright green leaf clusters on long stems featuring multiple sprigs.
How to Grow
This herb is drought-friendly; it thrives in full sun and loves heat, so if you are growing in a pot indoors, plant near a sunny window. In the garden, plant with other drought-tolerant perennials. In early spring, you may fertilize with compost, but not much soil amendment is needed. It is hard to grow thyme from seeds alone due to slow, uneven germination. The plants should grow 6-12 inches in height. If you are growing thyme in containers, plant with rosemary which also likes sunny conditions and has similar watering needs.
How to Store
Clean leaves should not be washed, because it removes some of the essential oils. Fresh thyme should be stored refrigerated and wrapped lightly in plastic; it should last one to two weeks. To dry thyme, hang the sprigs in a dark, well-ventilated, warm area. You can also just dry the leaves by placing them on a tray. Once dried, store them in an airtight container. Crush just before using. Under good conditions herbs will retain maximum flavor for two years. Freezing is another method of storage.