Kitchen Dictionary: thyme
This is one of those little plants that laughs in the face of a Texas summer and remains undaunted by a few freezes. The creeping variety has been spreading between the rock stepping stones in my herb garden for months. I have to harvest it or it will cover the stones. It is fabulous! With dark green foliage that is so petit it belies its strong flavor, it is a perfect choice for edging the bed or filling in between the stones.
For me, it was surprising to see that Thyme is classified as a Southern European and Mediterranean ingredient. I thought it was totally southern cooking. When you think of decidedly southern dishes such as Chicken n’ Dumplins, Turkey & Dressing, Roast Chicken, Meatloaf, and so on, Thyme is a key player in creating the warm comforting tones of these dishes. If I am boiling chicken for almost anything, I have Thyme in the pot, too. Nothing beats the flavor of a lightly battered filet of Tilapia with Thyme mixed in the flour and cornmeal, I don’t care who you are- that is good right there!
Being that Thyme is a perennial, it is easiest to start with a seedling in the garden. Soggy places are no good for Thyme as it likes will drained soil. Lots of sun is a must, but a little afternoon shade in a Texan summer is greatly appreciated. This is an extremely easy plant to grow.
With Thyme being available in the garden year round, there is no reason not use fresh Thyme in all your cooking. Just snip off what you need and chop it finely or tie the sprigs together with kitchen twine and remove before serving. Thyme is a well-mannered herb and is not given to being over-powering in a dish. To a roasted chicken, I will sprinkle about 2 teaspoons over the skin or add about 2 tablespoons to a pot of soup. Your personal tastes really are the determining factor in how much to use. Experience is the best teacher, so give it a try.
However; some days it may not be very convenient to get to the garden, so I like to keep dried herbs in the pantry. To dry Thyme, cut as much as you want from the plant- but never taking more than two thirds of the mother plant- and using a rubber band, secure the stems and hang in a dry place with good air circulation. I have a little “clothes line” strung above my refrigerator where I clip bunches of herbs for drying. Once dry, which will take about 2 weeks, remove the leaves from the stems and place the leaves in a air-tight container and store out of the sunlight. Dried herbs keep for about 6 months and any extra you may have makes great gift ideas.
Matches well with: beef, carrots, chicken, figs, fish, goat cheese, lamb, lentils, onions, peas, pork, potatoes, soups, tomatoes, venison
So, get planting! Everyone needs a little more “thyme” in their day!