What To Look For When Buying Fresh Thyme

Buying fresh thyme and other herbs at the grocery store can raise a lot of questions. While fresh always seems better, the truth is that it's not always the right choice for your meal, sometimes dried herbs are better. Plus, even when they are labeled "fresh," herbs aren't always that fresh. According to Bob's Red Mill, you generally want to use fresh herbs in uncooked dishes like pesto, where their brightness will stand out. However, some fresh herbs have a stronger flavor that can overpower dishes when eaten raw and do better when cooked and infused into a meal to soften the taste.

Fresh thyme is one of the more pungent herbs that is better cooked than raw, but MasterClass states it has a mild flavor overall. Thyme is a member of the mint family, and has a brighter, earthy, herb flavor that does well when blended into stews and sauces. It is particularly good in long-cooked dishes because its flavor can hold up to extended heat, while other fresh herbs would break down in the process. So if you are using thyme you want a sprig that is fresh enough to stand up to prolonged simmering, and flavorful ingredients like meat and tomatoes. That means getting the best fresh thyme from the store, which you can do by looking for a couple simple visual clues.

Fresh thyme is full of leaves and bright green

You should be able to find fresh thyme in the refrigerated part of the produce department in most any supermarket. If you are worried that it has been sitting on the shelf too long, The Spruce Eats states that you should look for a bright green color on the leaves, which should be bunched together in clusters. Thyme has a central, woody stem with thinner green sprigs branching off, which should be thick and abundant. According to Simply Recipes, it's fine if the stem is darker and brown, but you should avoid thyme with discolored spots on the leaves themselves. Older thyme might also develop a thin layer of fuzzy, white mold on it, so look closely.

Once you have a good bunch of fresh thyme, it should keep in the fridge for up to a week. If you want to keep it fresher longer, you can wrap it in a damp paper towel and put it back in the sealed clamshell packaging, or a plastic bag. The thing to look out for is those brown spots on the leaves, once you see that, it means your thyme is starting to turn, and you should use it quickly. Thankfully you have tons of great options, from pasta sauce to marinades, to choose from, so that shouldn't be a problem.