A bunch of thyme contains approximately four to five sprigs removed from a live growing bush, or roughly one teaspoon of dried leaves. This type of measurement is often meant to represent a general suggestion in a recipe, and can be substituted for any amount that suits the needs of both the cook and the type of food being prepared. Fresh cut thyme tends to generate a stronger flavor than dried, sometimes necessitating that cooks use a larger quantity of the dried herb when fresh is not available.
Thyme grows as a low bush and may be found in an outdoor garden setting or indoors as a container plant. Each stem contains a large number of small, dark green, fragrant leaves than may be picked individually from the long, reed like stalk. These leaves may be added fresh to recipes, or dried and stored for future use.
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Four to five sprigs cut from the bush may be used to constitute one bunch of thyme. Each sprig may be between six and ten inches (15.24 and 25.4 centimeters) in length. Once a small flower shape has appeared at the top of the stem, it has generally reached its maximum height. Flowering sprigs should be cut and used first to make room for new shoots.
The act of plucking each leaf from the stem of the sprigs used in a bunch of thyme can be time consuming. The leaves tend to create a sticky residue on fingers during the removal process. Some cooks prefer to allow sprigs to dry for a period of several days prior to using. Leaves then fall off quickly when shaken roughly, or by running the thumb and forefinger down the length of the stem. Once removed, leaves are ready for use directly in recipes and are of a small size negating the need for cutting.
One fresh bunch of thyme is roughly equivalent to one teaspoon of dried thyme. When referenced in a recipe, this type of measurement is often meant to be an approximation. The amount of thyme used may be altered by the cook to suit her tastes. This herb is commonly used in both red and white sauces, and in slow cookers to flavor stew beef, veal, and lamb. Thyme is also a foundational flavor used in pot roasts to compliment both the beef and potatoes and carrots that are allowed to simmer in the meat's juices.