I live smack dab inside an urban forest of linden aka lime (Tilia) and at no time is that more obvious than mid-June-July when the trees are dripping with blooms. Their sticky sweet, floral scent is so strong, my bet is that even if you have never noticed the trees, chances are good that you are familiar with their smell.
Did you know that linden flowers make a sweet and delicious honey-like herbal tisane? The tea, made from dried flowers is popular in Europe, but virtually unheard of here in North America. It has soporific properties, meaning that it makes you sleepy, and is often used as a nighttime drink to calm and relax after a busy day.
With linden trees virtually everywhere around me and free for the taking, it seemed a shame not to take advantage and pluck a few for use throughout the year. And so that is why I set out one day a few weeks back to harvest a few from nearby trees that a friend had scoped out with low-lying branches. I brought the fresh blooms home and set aside a few for tincture-making. I laid the rest out in large, flat, open-weave baskets that I use for drying plant matter that isn’t suited to hanging. I have since gone on to harvest two more times: the second because a friend wanted some but didn’t have time to go out and the third because I wanted to try distilling a batch into floral water using my new still. I was able to do this because I noticed that trees in various locations were coming into their peak at different times. Chances are more than good that you will find a tree in your area with blossoms that are ready for picking.
Tips for Harvesting, Drying & Using Linden Flowers
- Advisory Note: While linden is praised as a gentle, soothing herb, some people are allergic, specifically to its pollen. I’ve found myself with itchy eyes and throat when processing the fresh flowers, but seem to have no trouble drinking the tea. Please use caution if you suffer seasonal allergies.
- According to the book, “Backyard Medicine: Harvest and Make Your Own Herbal Remedies,” linden flowers should be picked when a few of the flowers in a cluster have just opened and the rest remain closed.
- Choose a dry, sunny morning to harvest, although I have also picked later in the day and it wasn’t the end of the world.
- Like all herbs, it is best not to harvest for drying shortly after a rainfall, although in the book “Backyard Medicine” the authors suggest soaking the wet flowers in a tincture instead.
- Harvest and use both the flower and the small leaf that is attached to the cluster. You will notice that this “leaf” is very different from the actual tree leaves, which also happen to be edible, but are quite tasteless. Some people eat them fresh, but I think of them as “desperation food.”
- Drying: I’ve found that the flowers dry quickly, about a few days to a little over a week. I placed mine in paper bags afterwards to ensure they were bone dry before transferring to glass storage jars.
- To make linden tea: Steep 1-2 teaspoons or so in 1 cup hot water. Steep longer if you want to reap more of the medicinal qualities from the herb. Add a dollop of honey if you prefer your tea sweetened.
- Drink the tea hot or cold — its equally delicious either way.
- Linden Hydrosol: While praised as a soothing spray for the skin, I found that I did not like the smell. The hydrosol I made from freshly picked flowers lacked the sweet fragrance of the tea. So odd! I’d love to hear from anyone who has made linden hydrosol to compare notes as I am truly baffled by this outcome.
Book Giveaway Details
I’ve had the book, Backyard Medicine: Harvest and Make Your Own Herbal Remedies by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal on hand for some time now and have found it to be an incredible resource that I have turned back to again and again. One of the things I appreciate most is that in almost all cases it clearly explains when to harvest the plant at its peak and which parts to harvest. Amazingly, many books do not include this information. It’s shocking really given how valuable, if not essential it is when working with a plant for the first time.
I will be choosing 1 winner at random at midnight on July 10, 2013. The winner will be contacted by email.
All you have to do to enter is answer the following:
Are you familiar with linden? Have you harvested it? If yes, please tell us about it. As always, you can just type in “count me in,” and that will count as an entry, too.
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