Hundreds of varieties of thyme grow all over Eurasia, North Africa, Canary Islands and even Greenland. In the written source thyme was first mentioned approximately three thousand years BC. Since the ancient times people believed that thyme gives courage. That’s why Roman warriors used take baths with thyme before the battle and Scottish highlanders drank tea with thyme. Throughout Middle Ages thyme remained the symbol of courage. In medieval Europe ladies embroidered thyme twig onto their knights’ shirts, believing that it will give them courage during the battle.
Thyme is a basic ingredient in Libyan, Indian, Italian, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Greek, Caribbean and many other cuisines.
Thyme is sold both fresh and dried.
Fresh and dried leaves and stalks are often used with peas and beans. Thyme is one of the main herbs of French cuisine and it is always included in bouquet garni and herbes de Provence. In Spain, Greece and Turkey thyme is used for conservation of olives. In Louisiana thyme is added to such traditional Creole dishes as gumbo and jambalaya.
Jambalaya is a stewed mixture of rice, chicken (or pork), vegetable (invariably tomatoes), prawns, mussels, ham and spice (thyme is a must), served with tomato sauce or ketchup. Jambalaya can be called a variation of famous Spanish paella, which was brought to America by conquistadors.
Thyme is used in a classic French confit. Confit is a peculiar duck, goose and pork conserve. First, meat is corned in order to remove the excess of water, and then it is stewed for a long time until it becomes soft and tender. After it has cooled down, the meat is put into a clay pot, covered with fat in order to prevent the access of air. While the meat matures, it acquires a completely new taste and scent and can be stored in a cold place for a long time. Later confit can be fried or grilled and served with white mushrooms, and potatoes baked with cream.
Thyme is often used to flavour meats, soups and stews. It has a particular affinity to and is often used as a primary flavour with lamb, tomatoes and eggs. In small quantities thyme is added t fried fish, liver, pluck and lamb.
Just like with many dried herbs less of dried thyme is required compared to fresh herb. As a rule of thumb, use one third as much dried as fresh thyme and a little less if it is ground. Thyme releases its flavours slowly so it is usually added early in the cooking process.
The fresh thyme has more flavour, but it cannot be stored for more than a week. Dried thyme has less flavour but if stored correctly, it retains its flavour for a long time. It should be stored in a tightly closed glass container in a dark and dry place. Although summer-seasonal, fresh thyme is often available year round.