This popular herb grows in Europe, especially the Mediterranean, and is a member of the mint family. Very aromatic, it has small, grey-green leaves, and a sweetly earthy flavour. There are many different varieties, but the most readily available in the UK are the common or 'garden' thyme, and lemon thyme, which has slightly larger leaves and a flavour that is overlaid with a lemony tang. Both types work well with Mediterranean vegetables, eggs, pork, lamb, fish and game. It's quite hardy, so can withstand long cooking times.
Year-round. Save money (and packaging) by buying a pot from your garden centre - it will live quite happily on a warm windowsill or plant it out in a herb box.
Choose the best
Fresh looking leaves, with pliant stems. Avoid any that are dry, brown or mouldy.
Wash, then either use the whole sprig or remove the leaves and discard the stalk. To strip the leaves from the stems, hold a stalk at the top and then firmly run the thumb and forefinger of your other hand along the stalk from top to bottom - the leaves should break off as you go.
Fresh cut thyme should be wrapped in damp kitchen paper, placed in a perforated bag and stored in the fridge. It will last for up to 5-6 days. Dried thyme should be kept in an airtight container in a cool, dark place - it should last for 4-6 months.
Use in stews, stuffings, marinades, omelettes or scrambled eggs.
Try herbes de Provence or oregano.