Thyme, Thymus vulgaris is a member of the Lamiaceae (mint) family and is closely related to basil, hyssop, lavender, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage and savory. This fragrant perennial is native to the southern Mediterranean region, North Africa and Asia.
There are numerous varieties of thyme and based on the specific climate conditions will produce different flavors. Some of the better known varieties are anise thyme, caraway thyme, garden thyme, lemon thyme, Moroccan thyme, orange thyme, Spanish thyme and wild thyme. In the US, Moroccan and Spanish varieties of thyme are the most commonly found.
The essential oil of dried thyme ranges from 1.5% to 2% and is primarily phenols of which thymol and the carvacrol are the most prominent.
Thyme is called za’tar (Arabic), bai li hsiang (Mandarin), zatar (Farsi), thym (French), thymian (German), banajwain (Hindi), taimu (Japanese), tomilho (Portuguese), timyan (Russian) and tomillo (Spanish). Also called common thyme or garden thyme. In the Middle East it is called some variation of zahtar (may also be spelled as za’tar or za’atar) which is the same word used for marjoram, savory or the spice blend za’atar (again various spellings).