It’s time to rejuvenate the flavors of spring with an infrequently explored herb that’s finally sprouting up in kitchens everywhere: thyme.

Its flavor profile, characterized as minty and green, emulates the spirit of spring, making it an essential complement to the season’s most popular foods: seafood, asparagus, new potatoes, mushrooms, baby greens and lemons.

Thyme is a favorite among professional chefs and innovative home cooks, and Americans have begun to embrace it as a pantry staple. Sales  have increased by 24% over the last few years as interest in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Caribbean cuisines explodes. Thyme is a key ingredient in the Middle Eastern spice blend za’atar, as well as bouquet garni, Herbes de Provence and Jamaican Jerk seasoning.

Flourishing best in the Mediterranean region, thyme is cultivated in Spain and France. French thyme is considered to be the highest quality, but limited quantities are available.

The thyme plant is a small perennial in the mint family that grows about 18” tall, with very small leaves (about 1/4” long). The herb’s origin dates back to Ancient Greece, where it symbolized courage. Roman soldiers bathed in thyme-infused water to gain vigor, courage and strength. In the Middle Ages, ladies embroidered a sprig of thyme on knights’ scarves for bravery. 

It’s now incredibly easy to find organic thyme in mainstream supermarkets, as well as natural and organic food stores. Add it to your shopping list, and expand your family’s palate with yesterday’s featured recipe, Spring Thyme Salmon.