In the world of culinary arts there’s an endlessness to learning. I grew into cooking with a particular adoration and study in Italian food. Thyme was one herb among many that called the Italian culinary pantheon home. I knew the basics and the Mediterranean “formulas.” In recent years I have been excitedly using thyme, and rosemary for that matter, in ways that stretch traditional teachings. The types of thyme I am referring to here are English and French thyme and to a lesser extent Lemon Thyme (has a more subtle flavor). Understood as an earthy, as a slightly bitter element, thyme can really lend some lovely savory to dishes not characteristically featuring the herb. Its not purely, a Mediterranean herb, per se.
First, let me also say that I tend to be drawn to herbs heavily as a gardener but also because I know that these plants, ounce for ounce, are some of the healthiest for you. So my cooking is fairly herb heavy. I learned this technique from the great chef Carrie Summers at The Chef Shack. With curries I add a sprig or two of fresh thyme. I use it my Moroccan dishes as well, tagines for instance. The thyme helps balance out the sweetness you have in a tagine with the dried fruits and sweet spices. Caribbean food is another place to observe this. Thyme is used commonly in these island cuisines, some of which also feature curries related to those back in India.
Lastly, it would be rude to close on thyme without a medical note. Yes, thyme has been used for many many years for its medicinal properties. In particular its known as a very good tonic for the stomach, having anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties. Also, is use regularly as a sleep tonic in tea form just before going to sleep. I find it helps me with a deeper and more restful sleep. The process is simple: put thyme sprigs in water and bring to a simmer, turn off and steep for 5-10 minutes. The longer you steep the more bitter and stronger the flavor. Fresh thyme vs dried is much superior as it has the essential oils in it still. I encourage all lovers of good food to learn about, appreciate and explore the world of herbs.