As superstar of the herb garden, thyme is one of the most important herbs in the European kitchen.
In the Mediterranean world, thyme was once believed to be a symbol for courage, with Roman soldiers bathing in thyme infused water in the belief that they would gain vitality, strength and courage. It was also believed to be mood-lifting and libido-enhancing—an aphrodisiac enjoyed by those same soldiers (in a special combination of thyme and roses it was also used to prepare Roman houses for orgies!). Thyme has a long history of being used to cure shyness or melancholy and placed under your pillow it was used to aid sleep and ward off nightmares.
Even in Danish and German folklore, thyme had its place — seek out a patch wild thyme to find the favorite dwelling of woodland fairies (likely dancing the night away), drink a concoction of it to see them or invite them to your home by sprinkling dried thyme on your windowsills and doorways.
Not at all surprising, this aromatic herb whose name means ‘fumigate’ was also used as incense to freshen the air and ward off evil spirits, and let us not forget, the Egyptians relied heavily on it as an embalming agent to preserve their dead Pharaohs. Yes, this celebrated herb has a rich and colorful history.
Even today, the chemical compounds found in thyme have many therapeutic applications and have proven to be an excellent remedy against a number of maladies:
- Essential thyme oil is widely used as an antiseptic and disinfectant—you’ll find it in mouthwash, hand sanitizer and acne medication.
- Adding the essential oil to a bath (or a drop on your pillow) is mood enhancing and helps bring on a restful sleep and calm dreams.
- Thyme tea has a number of benefits—drink it to treat menstrual cramps or other stomach ailments, lung congestion, coughing and overall flu conditions….even hangovers!
- Used in cooking, thyme aids the digestion of fatty foods and meats such as duck, lamb, and pork, plus adding it to recipes help protect against foodborne diseases.
Thyme is quite aromatic and flavorful without ever being overpowering. It blends well with other herbs and spices, especially rosemary and adds a wonderful fragrance and savory touch to recipes with its floral, herbaceous, and fresh flavors.
When using dried thyme, as a rule of thumb, use one-third as much as fresh thyme and when cooking with thyme be sure to add it early on in the process so that the oils and aroma have enough time to release.
Widely used in Italian and French cooking, thyme is the primary herb in soups and stews and pairs well with all types of meat. It is a great complement to vegetables such as mushrooms, potatoes, carrots, eggplants, and tomatoes. And it’s excellent for a herb bread or flavored butter, and lemon thyme is superb with fish and chicken.
For delicious roasted spuds, toss them in olive oil, thyme, sea salt and lots of freshly ground pepper. Or when you grill meat, you can create a fabulous marinade with a combination of thyme, sage and rosemary, along with olive oil and freshly ground pepper.
Thyme Roasted Tomatoes
1 kg assorted heirloom tomatoes, halved
1 fresh sweet white onion (or red onion), cut into rings
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (60 ml)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons (or more) chopped fresh thyme
1. Preheat an oven to 450°F / 230°C.
2. In a large baking dish, arrange the tomatoes, cut side up, in a single layer. Scatter the onions slices and garlic over the tomatoes. Drizzle evenly with the olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the chopped thyme.
3. Roast until tomatoes are softened but still hold their shape, about 15 minutes. Stir once halfway through the cooking time. Serve warm or at room temperature.
TIP: Enjoy as a side, over a toasted baguette or even along with a bowl of pasta with fresh grated parmesan cheese.
Fresh thyme is superior in its flavor compared to dry.
To keep fresh herbs the longest, thyme is best stored wrapped in a lightly damp paper towel and stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Remove as much of the air as possible from the bag to help preserve its freshness.
Try a delicious recipe using fresh thyme:
- Pear, Roquefort & Honey Crostini
- Marinated Lentil Salad
- Savory Tomato and Thyme Salmon
- Parsnip Apple Risotto
- Roasted Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup
- Thyme-Infused Roasted Garlic Spread