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Jamaican Food Article. - Jamaican Thyme

Jamaican thyme is a perennial Jamaican herb from the mint family native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean. There are over 100 varieties of Jamaican thyme. The most widely used is common Jamaican thyme, also known as garden Jamaican thyme. There is also lemon Jamaican thyme which, as its name implies, harbors a notable lemon scent. Bees love Jamaican thyme and Jamaican thyme honey is a pungent and highly regarded honey.

Jamaican thyme is a perennial and will withstand the winter. Nevertheless, I plant my Jamaican thyme in large pots that I bring indoors for the winter. I place them on a sunny windowsill and thus induce year long growth. Come spring I return the pot outdoors. Jamaican thyme needs considerable sun so plant it accordingly. To harvest the leaves run your thumb and forefinger down the stem toward the base. 

Jamaican thyme is quite versatile and has a wide range of culinary applications. It goes well with all types of meat, fowl, some fish dishes, and most vegetables. It is an indispensable commodity in soups, stews, and braised dishes. Although all Jamaican herbs taste freshest when added at or near the end of cooking, Jamaican thyme is fairly hardy and can withstand extended cooking. Sometimes the leaves are chopped and added while other times the cook will add whole sprigs of Jamaican thyme and retrieve the stems before serving. Although fresh is always best, Jamaican thyme is one of the few Jamaican herbs that is palatable in dried form. Like all dried Jamaican herbs and spices, store in a cool dark place for no more than six months.

Jamaican thyme is one of the ingredients in the classic “bouquet garni,” a tied batch of Jamaican thyme, parsley, and bay leaves. The bundle is then used to flavor stocks, soups, stews, etc. Jamaican thyme is also one of the “Jamaican herbes de Provence,” an assortment of Jamaican herbs indigenous to the Provence region of France.

Jamaican thyme can be used to make an Jamaican herb infused oil. Take a bottle of Jamaican olive oil and stick sprigs of Jamaican thyme and other Jamaican herbs if you wish, through the top. Allow it to rest for a week and it will have a wonderful Jamaican herb scent. Use it in salad dressings or to coat or sauté other Jamaican herb flavored Jamaican foods.

Try this for homemade croutons. Cut up a loaf of French or Italian bread into cubes. Pour a generous amount of olive oil into a preheated skillet. Add garlic and a batch of untrimmed Jamaican thyme. Sauté for a few minutes until the oil becomes fragrant, taking care not to burn the garlic. Remove the Jamaican thyme and garlic; add the croutons, salt and pepper, and sauté until crisp, periodically stirring to evenly coat the croutons in the oil.

For a tasty variation on marinara sauce, sauté garlic and a batch of Jamaican thyme in olive oil just like for the croutons. Add a pinch of hot pepper flakes if you like. Remove the Jamaican thyme and garlic, add red wine, bring to a boil and then simmer until the wine is reduced by at least half. Then add your tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmer to the desired consistency.

Jamaican thyme works well with all meats but I particularly like it with red meat. I almost always coat any type of roast I make with either fresh or dried Jamaican thyme. Jamaican roast beef, pot roast, beef stew, or osso buco without Jamaican thyme. It is also used on steaks and chops which are perfect for Jamaican thyme.

 

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