Wild thyme (or creeping thyme) is a milder version of the variety we know from Southern Europe. Its flavor is subtle but distinctive, and for many it's the taste of summer in Denmark.
Where to Find It
Wild thyme is common in Jutland, north Zealand, and on Bornholm. It grows in dry, sandy soil where there's plenty of sunlight. You'll typically find it in ditches, in sandy areas, or in salt marshes where it can grow in full sun. It can also be found on dry slopes, moors, and rock faces.
Salt marshes, roadsides, grasslands.
When to Find It
You can pick sprigs of wild thyme as early as May, but the flowers won't bloom until June. The season ends in August. Wild thyme is strongest in flavor when flowering, so it can be worth waiting to gather it until you see its purple blossoms begin to form.
Flowers: June, July, August.
How to Spot It
Wild thyme is a small, branched herb that looks like a miniature version of the thyme you find in the supermarket. It has reddish-brown, woody stems and small, green, oval leaves. Wild thyme develops tiny pinkish or violet flowers that grow in clusters at the top of each stem. It often carpets an area, and when the plant is flowering, it looks like there are big, pink toadstools dotting the landscape.
How to Pick It
Clip the sprigs with a good pair of scissors, but don't cut too far down because it will stop the plant from growing. If you're only going to use the flowers, only clip off the top of the plant.
Entire plant: May, June, July, August.
On the palate
Wild thyme has a mild taste of lavender, mint, and regular thyme. It has notes of the forest floor, bark, and fresh topsoil. The flavors are particularly aromatic.
Wild thyme has a slightly spiced scent of lavender and garden thyme.
Wild thyme is well-suited for drying, which will help it keep most of its aroma. Its mild flavor is fleeting, so add only at the final stage of cooking. You can season dishes with it by frying it in butter for the last five minutes of cooking, for example. Raw leaves and flowers will impart a nice, clean flavor. The flowers are good for making extracts in oil, alcohol, or vinegar.
Use wild thyme in the same way you use regular thyme, but be aware that it will require greater quanties to achieve the same flavor. People normally use wild thyme in savory dishes; it beautifully accents poultry, pork, lamb, fish, leek, root vegetables, butter-steamed vegetables, tomatoes, mushrooms, eggs, lentils, and beans. But wild thyme also adds a special touch to desserts with ice cream, pears, oranges, apples, dark-colored berries like blackberries or blueberries, or chocolate. You can also use to flavor a lemon mousse.
Store the wild thyme in a sealed bag or airtight container inside the crisper drawer of your refrigerator, where it will stay fresh for one to two weeks. You can also dry it in the oven on very low heat and store it in a dark, cool place in a glass bottle with an airtight lid.
In savory dishes, you can replace wild thyme with another aromatic herb such as wild marjoram.
Risk of misidentifying the plant
There is no risk of mistaking the plant for another dangerous or undesirable plant.