Ground Thyme: Flavor Profile
One of Europe and North America’s favorite spices, ground thyme infuses a minty, citrusy flavor on dishes, and is most commonly used in stews, soups, sauces and dry rubs. The herb – a member of the mint family – is revered in British cooking, and it’s highly fragrant, imparting fresh, herbal flavors in stews and soups.
Ground thyme is particularly useful for incorporating bold flowery flavors. The taste is more concentrated, and ground thyme infuses its rich, zesty flavor more quickly than fresh or dried leaf. That makes it an ideal companion for slow-cooked dishes, soups, and it’s commonly found in spice blends like Bonquet Garni and Za’atar.
Cooking with Ground Thyme
Thyme is sold fresh, dried or ground. Yet, ground thyme has the most intense flavor of all its variations. Typically, you need less ground thyme than fresh or dried leaf. Use half of what you’d use in dried leaf, or about 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of ground to fresh.
Ground thyme is a versatile herb in the kitchen. It’s an effective flavor enhancer, and can be used in spice blends, as a dry rub, a finishing spice, or added to recipes. A few of the most common uses for ground thyme include:
- Dry Rubs – Thyme pairs famously with meats, especially lamb, duck and pork, as the strong, citrusy flavors can help to mask the gaminess of some meats. Use it as a stand-alone rub or mix it with herbs like oregano or marjoram.
- Soups and Stews – Thyme’s floral notes mix well in rustic soups and hearty stews. The herb complements tomato particularly well, and therefore, is the perfect complement for tomato-based stews and chilis.
- Eggs and Cheese – Thyme pairs well with eggs, and it balances the creaminess of many hard cheeses. Use it to flavor a cheesy omelet, frittata or strata.
- Sauces – Ground thyme is especially useful in rich, olive oil-based sauces. A dash of ground thyme brings in notes of floral and citrus to a zesty vinaigrette, dipping sauce, or salad dressing.
History of Thyme
Thyme is an herb with a very interesting history, and it first appears in historical records in 2000 B.C. The Egyptians used the herb for a variety of medicinal and ceremonial rites. In fact, thyme was used as an embalming agent.
Thyme has always had cultural significance. The Greeks, for example, believed thyme brought courage. And they used the fragrant herb as an incense and in bathing. Similarly, the Romans used it for its aromatic powers in smelling salts. Yet, the Romans were also the first to use thyme in cooking. Romans used thyme to flavor cheeses and liqueurs, thanks to its citrusy and herbal flavors.
During the Middle Ages, thyme was a symbol of courage, and women would give soldiers bouquets that contained thyme sprigs to bring courage on the battlefield. The herb was also commonly placed under pillows to prevent nightmares and bring on deep sleep.
Thyme was also believed to ward off disease and poisoning. That’s why it was often a favorite herbal seasoning used by emperors during the Middle Ages. And it was widely used during the Black Death plague in the 1300s, as people believed it would offer relief and protection.
Throughout history, thyme has also been a popular culinary herb. Some of the first to utilize it were the Egyptians. They used thyme as a seasoning for breads and roast dishes, and monasteries during ancient times used thyme to season roasts, breads and soups. During the Middle Ages, the herb was distributed throughout Europe (it’s native to the southern Mediterranean). And it become widely used in French, Italian and British cooking. Today, it’s the No. 2 most popular herb in English recipes, behind only mint.
Thyme is a perennial and is one of more than 300 species in the mint family. The herb grows in hot locales and prefers full sun. As it matures, thyme grows to about a foot in height and produces reddish-brown stems and dull green sprigs. In late spring, the plant produces a vibrant pink flower.
The herb is highly adaptive but prefers well-draining soils. You’ll find the herb in many temperate climates, especially in the southern Mediterranean and North Africa. Thyme is grown in Italy, Morocco, Egypt, Spain and Portugal, as well as in the U.S. and the Caribbean.
There are many popular varietals of the herb. Lemon thyme or orange thyme produces a bushier plant with broad leaves. And wild thyme is native to the Catskills in the U.S. (and provides a key nectar source for humming birds). Thymus vulgaris, though, is the most popular varietal for culinary use. It’s commonly called French thyme, English thyme or summer thyme.
About Our Ground Thyme
Spain and Morocco are the world’s most significant growers of thyme, and they produce some of the most fragrant and flavorful thyme in the world. We source our thyme from growers in both countries, depending on the time of the year.
In winter, Morocco produces the most leaves, as its temperature, subtropical climates allows for year-round growing. And in spring, Spanish growers thrive, producing the majority of their yearly output. We purchase thyme leaf in bulk and grind it in our spice shop. We use a fine mesh to produce a smooth, flavorful powder. We grind thyme weekly for the freshest most flavorful ground thyme.