What is Thyme?
If you’re looking to add some extra flavor to your meals while also reaping a host of health benefits, look no further than thyme. This fragrant herb, often used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines, is packed with nutrients and antioxidants that can do wonders for your body. From boosting your immune system to aiding in digestion, thyme has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. But it’s not just good for you – thyme also adds a delicious depth of flavor to dishes such as roasted meats, soups, and stews. So why not spice up your diet with this versatile herb and give your taste buds and your body a treat? In this article, we’ll explore some of the many benefits of adding thyme to your diet, and provide some tips on how to incorporate it into your meals.
Thyme is a perennial herb with small aromatic leaves. It is commonly used as a culinary herb due to its distinct flavor and fragrance, which is a combination of earthy, minty, and slightly sweet notes. Thyme is native to the Mediterranean region but is now cultivated and used worldwide.
I love using thyme in my cooking as it adds a delicious flavor to my recipes. And because there are so many variations available in the supermarkets I always have some form of it in my kitchen.
History & background
Thyme has a rich history that dates back thousands of years.
Thyme’s use can actually be traced back to ancient civilizations. The ancient Egyptians used thyme in embalming practices, and it was found in the tombs of pharaohs. And the ancient Greeks associated thyme with courage and used it as an incense in temples and a symbol of bravery. They believed that thyme grew on the hillsides where the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, walked – aw how romantic.
The Romans used thyme for culinary purposes, as a medicinal herb, and in perfumes and cosmetics. They believed that it provided courage and strength, so it was often given to soldiers before battles. Roman soldiers also used it as a remedy for respiratory ailments.
During the Middle Ages, thyme became associated with folklore and superstition. People believed it was able to ward off evil spirits and nightmares when placed under pillows or hung in doorways. It was also used to purify rooms and protect against disease. It was commonly grown in monastery gardens during this period.
Thyme continued to be valued during the Renaissance era for its culinary and medicinal properties. It was widely used in European cooking, and its popularity spread throughout the world during the Age of Exploration. Its reputation as a medicinal herb also persisted, with various herbalists and physicians recommending it for treating respiratory ailments and digestive issues.
Today, thyme remains a popular herb in culinary traditions worldwide. It is widely cultivated and used in a variety of cuisines, from Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes to French and Italian cuisine. Its versatility and distinct flavor continue to make it a beloved herb in kitchens around the globe.
What form does it come in?
Thyme is available in various forms, allowing for different culinary and medicinal uses.
Fresh thyme consists of the actual sprigs or leaves of the plant. It is often sold in small bundles or bunches. Fresh thyme is highly aromatic and is typically used in cooking by stripping the leaves from the stems and adding them to recipes.
Dried sprigs of thyme is the dehydrated form of the herb. It is made by air-drying the sprigs or leaves until they are completely dry. Generally it has a more concentrated flavor compared to fresh thyme. It is commonly used in spice blends, stews, soups, and other long-cooking dishes.
Ground thyme is made by grinding dried thyme leaves into a fine powder. It is convenient to use and is often incorporated into spice mixes or used as a seasoning for various dishes.
Thyme essential oil is extracted from the leaves and flowers of the plant. It is highly concentrated and should be used with caution. Thyme oil is primarily used for aromatherapy, massage, and topical applications for its potential health benefits.
Thyme leaves can be steeped in hot water to make a tea. It is believed to have soothing properties for coughs, sore throats, and respiratory issues. Thyme tea is made by pouring boiling water over fresh or dried leaves and allowing it to steep for a few minutes.
Thyme extract is a concentrated form of the herb. It is commonly used in herbal remedies, natural health products, and some cosmetic formulations.
We have included a link for Dried Thyme Leaves, so that you will always have some ready to use in your cooking.
Dried Thyme Leaves – use in soups, stews and marinades.
Perfect for Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern dishes.
This product is ethically sourced, with sustainability at the forefront.
This is also organic, Non-GMO, gluten-free, no sugar or additives.
6 ounces of flavor in a resealable container.
Is Thyme good for you?
Thyme is not only valued for its flavor but also for its potential health benefits. While it should not be considered a cure-all, it does contain several compounds that may have positive effects on health.
Thyme is rich in antioxidants, which help protect cells from damage caused by harmful free radicals. Antioxidants have been linked to reducing the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and certain types of cancer.
It contains anti-inflammatory compounds, such as rosmarinic acid, which may help reduce inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation is associated with various diseases, and consuming anti-inflammatory foods like thyme may have a positive impact on overall health.
Thyme has traditionally been used to support respiratory health. It contains compounds that may help relax the airways and relieve coughs and congestion. Thyme tea or steam inhalation with thyme oil is sometimes used as a natural remedy for respiratory issues.
It has been used in traditional medicine to aid digestion. It may help stimulate the production of digestive enzymes, support healthy gut bacteria, and relieve gastrointestinal discomfort.
Thyme possesses antimicrobial properties due to compounds like thymol and carvacrol. These compounds have been shown to inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi. Thyme oil is sometimes used topically to treat minor skin infections or applied as a natural antiseptic.
Some studies suggest that certain compounds in thyme may have positive effects on mood and cognitive function. These effects may be attributed to the herb’s aromatic compounds and their potential to stimulate the brain.
It’s important to note that while thyme may offer potential health benefits, individual results may vary, and it should not replace professional medical advice or treatment.
Thyme Flavor profile
Thyme has a distinct flavor profile that is often described as earthy, aromatic, and slightly floral. Its flavor can vary depending on the variety used and whether it is used fresh or dried. Here are some key characteristics of thyme’s flavor:
- Earthy: It has a pronounced earthy taste that is reminiscent of the herb’s natural environment. This earthiness is often described as woody or grassy, providing a grounding and savory quality to dishes.
- Aromatic: It is highly aromatic, and its fragrance is released when the leaves are crushed or heated. The aroma is often described as warm and herbaceous, with hints of pine and mint.
- Subtle Sweetness: It has a subtle underlying sweetness that balances its earthy and herbaceous notes. This slight sweetness can enhance the overall flavor profile of dishes.
- Minty Undertones: Some varieties of thyme, such as lemon thyme, can have hints of mint in their flavor profile. This adds a refreshing and cooling element to the overall taste.
- Bitterness: The leaves may have a mild bitterness, particularly when used in larger quantities or if the stems are included. However, the bitterness is generally not overpowering and is often balanced by other flavors in a dish.
Thyme’s flavor profile makes it a versatile herb in cooking. It can complement a wide range of dishes, including roasted meats, poultry, vegetables, sauces, soups, and stews. Its distinctive taste adds depth and complexity to recipes, and it pairs well with other herbs like rosemary, oregano, and sage. When cooking with thyme, it is important to use it in moderation to avoid overwhelming the other flavors in the dish.
Cooking with Thyme
Cooking with thyme can add wonderful flavor and aroma to your dishes. Here are some tips for using thyme in your cooking:
- Fresh vs. Dried: Fresh thyme and dried thyme have slightly different flavor profiles. Fresh thyme has a more subtle and delicate flavor, while dried thyme is more concentrated and potent.
- Adding to Recipes: Thyme can be added to a variety of dishes during cooking. It pairs well with roasted meats, poultry, vegetables, soups, stews, sauces, and marinades.
- Seasoning Meats: Rub fresh or dried thyme leaves on meats, such as chicken, beef, lamb, or pork, before cooking. It will complement the rich flavors of these meats and adds depth to their taste.
- Flavoring Vegetables: Add it to roasted or sautéed vegetables for an extra layer of flavor. Toss vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, or zucchini, with olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme leaves before cooking.
- Infusing Soups and Stews: Tie fresh thyme sprigs together and add them to soups, stews, and stocks. The heat will release the flavor and aroma of thyme, enhancing the overall taste of the dish.
- Herbs de Provence: It is a key ingredient in the classic French herb blend called Herbes de Provence. Combine dried thyme with other herbs like rosemary, savory, oregano, and marjoram to create this versatile seasoning mixture.
- Cooking with Thyme Sprigs: For dishes that have a longer cooking time, such as braised meats or slow-cooked sauces, you can add whole sprigs to infuse the flavors.
- Balancing Thyme: It has a strong flavor, so start with a small amount and gradually add more to taste. Remember that dried thyme is more concentrated, so you’ll need less compared to fresh thyme.
- Fresh Garnish: Sprinkle freshly chopped thyme leaves over your dishes just before serving to add a burst of fresh aroma and flavor.
Apart from its culinary uses, thyme has other applications and benefits.
- Aromatherapy: Thyme essential oil is used in aromatherapy for its invigorating and uplifting scent. It is believed to promote relaxation, relieve stress, and improve mood. The oil can be diffused, added to bathwater, or used in massage oils (diluted with a carrier oil) for aromatic and therapeutic purposes.
- Natural Cleaning: Its antimicrobial properties make it a useful ingredient in natural cleaning products. Thyme-infused vinegar or essential oil can be used as a natural disinfectant or added to homemade cleaning solutions to help kill germs and bacteria.
- Personal Care Products: It is sometimes used in natural soaps, shampoos, and skincare products for its antibacterial and aromatic qualities. It can provide a pleasant scent and potential antimicrobial benefits to these products.
- Insect Repellent: It has been found to have insect-repellent properties. It can be used as a natural alternative to chemical insecticides by creating a thyme-infused spray or by planting thyme in outdoor areas to deter insects.
- Culinary Crafts: It can be used in various culinary crafts, such as infused oils, vinegars, and flavored salts. These infused products can be used for cooking, salad dressings, or as gifts.
- Ornamental Plant: Thyme plants, with their small leaves and delicate flowers, can be grown as ornamental plants in gardens or containers. They add beauty, fragrance, and a touch of greenery to outdoor spaces.
It’s worth noting that while thyme has a long history of use in traditional medicine and natural remedies, scientific research is ongoing to understand its potential benefits and confirm its effectiveness. If using thyme for any specific purpose, it’s recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or seek reliable sources for guidance.
Finally, if you are looking for an alternative to thyme then you could consider using oregano, rosemary, or sage. Each can bring a slightly different flavor to your dish.
Have a look at our substitutes section for ideas on what other herb you can use in place of thyme.