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Thyme is a delicate herb with a penetrating fragrance. It belongs to the genus Thymus, of which the most common is Thymus vulgaris. It has thin, woody stems with small, curled leaves that are grey-green in colour on the upper side and whitish on the underside.
The pungent herb has been a common ingredient in southern European and Mediterranean cuisines for centuries.
Before chopping thyme, first hold the stem at the tip with your fingers and slide fingers gently down the stem toward the base to remove the leaves. Discard the stem, and chop the leaves. Finely chopped thyme can be used in salad dressings with olive oil and other herbs. It can also be used in marinades. Roughly chopped thyme can be used to flavour baked beans.
Fresh thyme is air-dried and to prepare dried thyme. Dried thyme should be kept in a tightly-sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place. It will keep fresh for about six months. Dried thyme is used to season soups, stocks, stews and sauces.
How to select
• Thyme is easily available in both fresh and dried forms.
• Fresh thyme is available almost all year round. When buying fresh thyme, look for fresh leaves that are a vibrant green-grey in colour, free from dark spots and yellowing.
• Even when fresh thyme is not available, the dried herb can be easily bought from supermarkets. When doing so, check the date of packaging and expiry, and prefer to buy thyme that has been stored in glass bottles as they will have a better flavour.
• Along with fresh sprigs of parsley and bay leaves, thyme is included in the French combination of herbs called bouquet garni used to season stock, stews and soups.
• A seasoning of fresh thyme adds flavour to pasta sauce, as well as preparations of kidney beans, pinto beans and black beans.
• Thyme goes very well with tomato-based dishes.
How to store
• Fresh thyme should be stored in the refrigerator wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel.
• Dried thyme is best stored in glass bottles. It stays well at room temperature or in the side-door compartments of the refrigerator.
• Thyme relieves chest congestion and cough.
• Boil thyme in water, and allow it to cool. This mixture has antiseptic properties and helps alleviate inflammation of the throat when gargled three times a day.
• Wounds and infections can be treated by cleaning with thyme water.
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