Provence thyme is one of the newest French agricultural products benefitting from protected designation of origin status, having been granted EU-wide protection by the European Commission in October 2018.
A perennial, Provence thyme is grown either in fields or collected from the wild. Provence thyme is easy to distinguish from other varieties of the thyme family, of which there are hundreds of individual species, and which are largely considered to be in the sweeter category, by its strong and spicy taste. This power is given to it by the specific composition of it essential oil, rich in carvacrol.
Its evergreen leaves, gray or green depending on the season, as well as the young shoots and calyx, are punctuated by glands filled with this essential oil. The other distinctive characteristics of Provence thyme are its natural cleanliness, the homogeneity of its leaves and the almost total absence of impurities.
Thyme, called “farigoule” in its native Provence region, is a plant that grows naturally in this area of southern France and has been present in Provençal dishes since ancient times. The presence of Provence thyme, and the aromatic and taste features of the plant have been cited in literature countless times, from Pliny the Elder in the First Century up to famous French novelist and playwright Marcel Pagnol in the 1940s.
As with all protected geographic indications, Provence thyme can only be produced in a specifically delineated geographic location using strict, time-tested traditional methods of cultivation that have been perfected over the centuries. According to the French government agency in charge of geographic indications, there are only about 50 producers of Provence thyme, and the annual harvest is about 90 metric tons.