Thyme in France. Thym, Serpolet, Farigoule and Thym Citron, Lemon Thyme in France. Thyme. One of the most important herbs in French cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman


Photograph courtesy of  Jean Weber.

Thym, Thym Vert, Serpolet, or Farigoule and Thym Citron – Thyme, the herb. Thyme will be on French menus, in recipes, in herb groups, as part of a  bouquet garni using cultivated thyme or wild thyme. Most cultivated varieties of thyme will be on French menus as thym or thym vert. Wild thyme will be on French menus as serpolet and in the south of France as farigoule in the Occitan language.

The southern French name for wild thyme, farigoule, comes from the Occitan language. Occitan is the source of the original language of much of Provence and Occitanie and some other regions of France. Provençal and Niçoise are among the many languages and dialects that developed from Occitan.

Wild thyme.
Photograph courtesy of Jean-Marie Van der Maren

Thyme is absolutely essential to French cuisine and much preferred when fresh. Thyme will be flavoring sauces and soups, fish and poultry, lamb, veal, fish, and, of course, herbal butter and bouquets garni. Thyme is one of the ingredients of the most important French Herb Group, Les Fine Herbes. The juices of certain herbs, including thyme, are used when their taste is wanted but not the texture. The juices pressed from thyme are often part of a recipe and noted on a menu as jus de thyme or made into a thyme-accented sauce.

Photograph courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library
Paris: Imprimerie de C.L.F. Panckoucke,1833-1835.
Thym Citron - Lemon thyme.

Lemon thyme looks similar to garden or cultivated thyme, but its leaves have a strong lemon scent, accompanied by a lemon flavor. Read the menu carefully if you are expecting thyme or you may end up with a very enjoyable but unexpected lemon accented dish. In the French kitchen, lemon thyme will be added to dishes that want that lemon accent, especially fish dishes and desserts.

Lemon Thyme

Thyme on French menus:

Carpaccio de Thon à l'Huile de Farigoule – A Carpaccio of fresh tuna marinated in the oil of wild thyme.

Roast chicken and potatoes with lemon thyme.

Côte de Veau Sauce Thym – A veal chop with a thyme sauce. France offers the best veal in Europe, so enjoy.


Filets de Rouget au Thym –  Filet of red mullet cooked with fresh thyme.

Filet Mignon de Cochon Miel de Thym, Risotto aux Agrumes, Navets Glacés à l’Orange A cut of pork fillet, a pig’s tenderloin, cooked with thyme honey and served with a risotto made with citrus fruits, and glazed turnips flavored with orange. Thyme honey comes from the bees that pollinate the wild thyme that grows all over the south of France and much of Corsica.


N.B.: When you see the word filet mignon on a French menu it will nearly always be an indication that the cut comes from a pork fillet. For French beef, the cuts from the end or narrowest part of the filet will be called a filet de boeuf, a beef fillet. From the thickest part of a beef fillet come the tornados, Chateaubriand and the cœur de filet.


Pain de campagne, figues, fromage de chèvre frais, thym.
Open toasted sandwiches made with:

La Cuisse de Canard Confite a la Fleur de Serpolet – A duck’s leg confit flavored with wild thyme flowers. In the original confits, the duck’s legs would have been cooked and then kept in a covering of the natural fat produced while cooking. Then, in a cool place, the duck’s legs could be kept through the winter. Today, a confit of duck or other meats indicates that it will have been cooked very until it tender enough to eat with a fork alone. That slow cooking allows the flavors to come through, and the meat will almost melt on your tongue.


Pièce de Veau aux Légumes de Saison, Jus au Thym - A cut of veal, probably a veal cutlet, served with the season’s vegetables and the veal’s natural cooking juices flavored with thyme. 
Filet de Sandre Roti, Beurre Blanc au Thym-Citron - Roasted pike-perch/zander, the fish, served with a white butter sauce flavored with the lemon lime herb.   

Suprême de Volaille Roti, Pomme de Terre, Carotte, Jus au Thym  - Roast chicken breast served with potatoes and carrots, flavored with the juice pressed from thyme.

L'Agneau de Lait en Côtelettes à la Fleur de Thym
Cutlets of milk-fed lamb flavored with thyme flowers.
L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon:
Photograph courtesy of  s-velasco.


Vinaigrette au Thym – A vinaigrette sauce flavored with thyme. The vinaigrette used here will be made with one of France’s many excellent olive oils with a wine vinegar.

Where thyme grows in France.  

The wild thyme grows wild in warm climates and originated in southern Europe. Most of the wild thyme in France comes from the Garrigues in Ocitanie and the Maquis in Provence and Corsica. On these, stony, windy, practically treeless, hills wild thyme will be decorating the countryside all year round, as wild thyme is an evergreen shrub. Corsica is uniquely famous for its six AOP kinds of honey. Two of those honeys come from bees that collect a large part of their pollen from herbs, especially the wild thyme that grows in the Corsican Maquis. 

Thyme honey.
Photograph courtesy of Jean Weber

Dried thyme is available, but no French chef will choose it over fresh thyme, whether wild or cultivated. Thyme is one of the few herbs with a more robust flavor when dried and can be too strong.  In the north of France, market gardeners will be supplying local restaurants with cultivated thyme and cultivated wild thyme fresh from their greenhouses in winter.

The importance of thyme in French cuisine

Thyme is nearly always part of a bouquet garni and absolutely always included in the herb groups the Fine Herbes and the  Herbes de Provence. That puts thyme among the six most important herbs in French cuisine!

How to prepare a boquet garni.
Photograph and video courtesy of Femme Actuelle.

Thyme tisanes, teas, in France, and thyme in homeopathic medicines.

Homeopathic pharmacies, in France, with their distinctive green cross or green storefront signs are nearly as conspicuous as regular pharmacies. Thyme oil is an essential oil with antiseptic properties and thyme tisanes or infusions, teas, are recommended for easing the effects of cold, flu and digestive troubles.

 Fresh thyme in the languages of France’s neighbors:

(Catalan - farigola), (Dutch – tijm), (German – tymian), (Italian – timo),  (Spanish – tomillo), (Latin - thymus vulgaris).

Wild thyme in the languages of France’s neighbors:

(Catalan -  Serpoll), ( Dutch  - wilde tijm), (German - quendel, feldthymian), (Italian – serpillo), (Spanish – serpoleto), (Latin - thymus serpyllum).


Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman


Copyright 2010, 2015, 2021
Searching for the meaning of words, names or phrases
a French menu?

Just add the word, words, or phrase that you are searching for to the words "Behind the French Menu" (best when including the inverted commas), and search with Google.  Behind the French Menu’s links, include hundreds of words, names, and phrases that are seen on French menus. There are over 450 articles that include over 4,000 French dishes with English translations and explanations.

Connected posts:

Agneau de Lait – Milk-fed Baby Lamb in French Cuisine.

Canard – Duck. Duck on French Menus.

Carpaccio on a French Menu. How to Order a Carpaccio in France.

Chateaubriand Steak and Chateaubriand the Man. Ordering a Chateaubriand steak in France.

Chèvre and Chevreau or Cabri – Goat’s Cheese and a Young Goat, a Kid, on Your French Menu.

Côte, Côtes, Côtières - A Bone-In Rib Steak, a Rib Roast, a Wine Growing Region, the Coast, and More. All will be on French menus.

Figues - Figs. Figs on French Menus. The Best Figs in France are the Figues de Sollies,

Filet Mignon on French Menus and Filet de Bœuf in French Cuisine
France's Butter Sauces 1. The Three Most Important Butter Sauces on French Menus.

French Bread - Different Types of French Bread. Ordering Bread in France.

French Olive Oils. Enjoying France's Best Olive Oils.

Herbes de Provence - The Herbs of Provence.

Jus – Fruit or Vegetable Juice and/or a cooked dish’s natural juices on French Menus.

Miel - Honey. The Many, Varied and Wonderful Honeys of France.

Oranger De Séville, Oranger Amer, Bigaradier - The Seville or Bigarade Oranges in French Cuisine. 

Rouget Barbet and Rougets de Roche - Red Mullet and Striped Red Mullet, the Fish. Fish on French Menus.

Sandre - Zander in the USA and Pike Perch in the UK. Sandre in French Cuisine.

Thé – Tea in France. Tea and Tisanes and a Short History of Tea.

The Different Vinegars and Verjus used in French Cuisine.

The Fine Herbs; Les Fine Herbes; the Most Important Herb Group in French Cuisine.

Thon - Tuna, the Fish. Tuna in French Cuisine

Tournedos Rossini, after 150 years still the most famous of all steak dishes. Tournedos Rossini and Gioacchino Rossini.

Turnips, (Navets) Parsnips (Panais) and Swedes (Chou-Navets or Rutabaga). Traditional Root Vegetables in Modern French Cuisine.

Veal in France II - Escalope de Veau or Paillard de Veau. A Veal Cutlet, Escalope, Escallop or Scallop.

What is a Confit? All About That Confit on Your French Menu.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Responsive ad