Mint Family: (Labiatae/Lamiaceae )
An aromatic, low-growing, perennial and woody plant of the mint family. The small, mildly pungent and strongly aromatic leaves are used as a culinary herb and the plant also yields a medicinal oil. Thyme can also be grown as an ornamental.
There are several varieties and species of cultivated and wild thyme with flavours of mint, caraway, lemon or oregano, but the two most commonly used species are the following:
1. Thymus vulgaris (Common Thyme)
Also known as Common Thyme, English Thyme, Summer Thyme, Winter Thyme, French Thyme or Garden Thyme. It’s the most commonly used and the most commonly available in supermarkets. It has smaller, non-variegated leaves and is more strongly aromatic.
2. Thymus citriodorus (Lemon Thyme)
Also known as lemon thyme or citrus thyme. It has much larger, usually variegated leaves, compared to the common thyme. There are several cultivated varieties of T. citriodorus with different citrus scents for example the lemon thymes, orange thymes, lime thymes. The leaves are used as a flavoring herb in cooking but can also be used raw in salads, and or in herbal tea. It can also be used in baking cakes.
Culinary Use of Thyme
Thyme is best used fresh but like rosemary and oregano, dried thyme keeps well and maintains its lovely aroma. Use 1/3 of the dried
Thyme is a common ingredient of the bouquet garni, herbes de Provence or the so-called Italian style seasoning.
Unlike coriander, the sprigs of the common thyme are robust and woody and can withstand long cooking. It’s therefore ideal for slow-cooked foods like stews, soups, casseroles and stocks. Add a few sprigs to the dish and remember to discard the sprigs before serving the food.
Whole sprigs of thyme can also be added to roast chicken, usually paired with lemon, or roast meat, game or vegetables. They can also be added to marinades of fish, meat and vegetables.
The leaves may be removed from stems either by scraping with the back of a knife, or by pulling through the fingers or tines of a fork. They are great used in stuffings for poultry or lamb or added to salads and other fresh preparations.
Availability of Thyme
Fresh greenhouse thyme is available all the year round in supermarkets.
Storage of thyme
Store fresh thyme in the refrigerator crisper for about one week, in the airtight container it’s sold in. Thyme can also be frozen for several months.
Thyme oil is the essential oil of the common thyme (Thymus vulgaris). It’s called oil of thyme and contains 20–54% thymol. It has antiseptic properties