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Thyme – All You Need to Know | Instacart Guide to Fresh Produce

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Aug 4, 2021

What is thyme?

Thyme is an herb (dried aerial plant) whose leaves grow in a cluster of thin stems. Pronounced “time,” this herb can be used for culinary, medicinal, and ornamental purposes. It can be used by itself or as a part of a blend.

While many varieties of thyme exist, the one used most often in cooking is Thymus vulgaris (or common thyme, garden thyme, German thyme, or just thyme). Thyme can be fresh or dried. Dried thyme is much more potent than fresh thyme.

The flavor of thyme is slightly minty and sharp. Described as earthy with floral hints, it may also be a little pepper-like and sweet.

Thyme is used on its own or in combination with other fresh herbs to:

  • Flavor meat or poultry
  • Add zest to soups, stews, and sauces
  • Add taste to grilled vegetables

It pairs well with meat, tomatoes, cheese, and eggs and may be found in a wide range of ethnic and regional cooking, including:

  • Mediterranean
  • European
  • African
  • Latin
  • Central American

Where did thyme originate from?

Thyme is native to the western Mediterranean in Southern Italy. The Ancient Egyptians and Ancient Greeks used thyme. It then spread throughout Europe by the Romans. The name comes from the Greek word thumus, or courage.

The Ancient Egyptians used thyme in embalming rituals. The Romans considered the herb a symbol of strength and bravery, so it was pinned on soldiers’ garments before battle, and the branches were burned to purify homes and temples. In the Middle Ages, thyme was also used to protect from the Black Death due to its antiseptic properties.

Today it is one of the most common herbs in the United States because of its versatility, unique taste, and compatibility with other herbs.

What are the benefits of eating thyme?

Thyme is a robust plant with many health benefits. Thyme contains a wide range of nutrients, such as:

  • Fiber
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin A
  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • Copper
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium

How is thyme grown?

Thyme needs lots of sunlight and well-drained loamy, sandy soil. It grows best at warmer temperatures. Slow to germinate (28 days) from seeds, it then takes about 1-3 weeks for the plants to grow. The plants will be about 6 to 12in tall.

A highly adaptable plant, it will thrive unless it gets too much water. Otherwise, it is relatively low-maintenance.

When is thyme in season?

Thyme is usually harvested in the summer months but can easily grow year-round because it is so hearty. Because it is so popular, it can be found year-round, along with other fresh herbs.

How do you pick thyme at the grocery store?

Packaged in a plastic clamshell container or loose, fresh thyme is usually found in bunches of sprigs. A sprig is a stem that’s snipped from the plant, and it looks like a woody stem with leaf clusters. Recipes will either call for one or more sprigs as ingredients. Look for thyme that is not dry and has a healthy odor.

If you are looking to have your groceries delivered, you can easily shop for thyme via Instacart. After adding thyme to your cart, use the “Instructions” option to notify your Instacart shopper about any preferences or specific directions on how to choose the best products. Shop for thyme now.

How to store thyme

Fresh thyme should be stored in the refrigerator, in either its original packaging or in a damp paper towel in a plastic bag to preserve freshness. Thyme should remain good in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks if stored properly.

Thyme may also be frozen. Wash, trim, and chop it, allow it to dry, and then store it in heavy-duty freezer bags or ice cube trays with a little water. If you freeze it into cubes, place the cubes in a plastic bag for storage. It can last at least 6 months when properly frozen.

You can also dry your own thyme in a food dehydrator, in the oven, or by hanging it. Then, store it in an airtight container. Most home chefs will also keep a jar or bag of dried thyme on hand.

How to tell if thyme is bad

Fresh thyme goes bad after a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. If the thyme is slimy and mushy, or the sprigs have wilted (meaning a loss in moisture and, therefore, a loss of flavor), the thyme is spoiled.

As long as no moisture or pantry bugs get in your dried thyme, it should be able to last for years. However, dried thyme can lose its potency, eventually becoming useless. To tell if the potency has been lost, rub a small amount of dried thyme between your fingers and see how it tastes and smells. If you can’t detect a taste or smell, then it is time to change your thyme.

What can I substitute for thyme?

Fresh thyme is very similar to many other common fresh herbs and can easily be substituted with:

  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Marjoram
  • Dried thyme

Chefs also use dried basil (but not fresh basil).

How can I find thyme near me?

Find the freshest produce (including thyme) at a local grocery via Instacart. You can have it delivered to your kitchen within 2 hours.

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