Foraging – Linden Flowers

For three summers in a row I have stared up at the glorious linden trees on my street and wished that I could reach the flowers. But, dang it, the city prunes them too darn high. So, I had to be content with just deeply inhaling the floral fragrance that floats down from the blooming flowers in delicious clouds.

linden tree playground

That is until this year! I was riding my bike past a park along the 10th Avenue bike route when a saw one glorious tree left to grow naturally with its branches hanging low <cue chorus of angels>. I screeched to a halt and Simon and I settled in for a long productive picking session! They were perfect for harvesting since it was a dry sunny day and they had recently flowered. The Gods had truly smiled upon us!  We picked until our fingers were stained with yellow pollen and we had half a shopping bag full.

We had enough to make cordial, infuse some in vodka (just for fun), and dry some for tea. The smell was heavenly!

Linden (aka: Lime, Basswood, Tilia) flowers make a very calming tea. It’s an old French remedy for hyperactive children, and modern herbalists use it for nervous tension, insomnia and arteriosclerosis. For a perfect stress relieving tea, pour boiling water over a cluster or two in a mug, and steep 5 to 10 minutes.

I am in awe of the humble Linden tree! The leaves are edible and can be eaten as a cooked green, added to stews as a thickener, or dried and ground into a flour substitute (done often during WWII). The flowers are edible, delicious and medicinal. The fruits (tiny nut-like, single drupes) are also edible and, if dried when immature, they have an aroma similar to chocolate! I’ll be investigating this, so stay tuned. The fact that the Linden tree’s branches naturally droop down to be within reach just adds even more to the feeling of generosity and kindness that emanates from this tree. The site CeltNet has a nice detailed description of the tree and its uses.

My Linden Flower Cordial Recipe

This was the first time that I have made linden flower cordial and it was so worthwhile! Drinking it is like drinking a glass of sunshine and happiness. Pure bliss. Delicious, delicate, floral bliss!

Makes 1.75 litres

  • 5 cups of Linden/Lime Flowers
  • 1 litre of water (4 cups)
  • 1 pound of sugar (454g). I used plain white granulated sugar because that was all I had on hand. I will use organic cane sugar next time, but not the dark kind since that would add a lot of its own flavour.
  • ½ pound of honey or agave syrup (226g). I used blueberry honey from Jane’s Honey.
  • 2 organic unwaxed lemons (juice and zest)
  • 2 tsp citric acid (optional, but recommended as it ‘finishes’ the flavour and aids preservation). You can buy it at Famous Foods.

If you feel the need, you can gently rinse off the flower clusters. I didn’t because they’re so delicate and were foraged from a quiet residential street, but do give them a good shake to remove any insects or debris.

Discard the stems and wing-like, papery bracts. Linden stems and bracts are safe to ingest, but they don’t bring much flavor.

Put the flowers in a non-reactive (glass or ceramic) bowl. Add the lemon juice and zest (big strips with a peeler works great) to the flowers.

In a medium size pot, bring the sugar, honey and water to a boil, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar and honey. Once the sweeteners have completely dissolved, simmer for 1 minute, remove from the heat, add the citric acid, stir, and pour the hot syrup over the linden flowers and lemon. Stir well.

Cover the bowl or container with a lid. Leave the mixture at room temperature for 24 hours, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for another 2 to 3 days, depending on your patience. During this time the flavor of the linden blossoms will infuse the syrup.

Strain the linden syrup through a sieve or colander lined with at least two layers of cheesecloth. Use enough cheesecloth to allow you to pull up the sides and wrap the flowers into a ball, twisting the top so you can squeeze out as much of the remaining syrup as possible. Transfer the syrup to clean glass jars or bottles.

Linden flower cordial will keep in the refrigerator for 1 month. For longer storage at room temperature, can them as you would jam with snap lids using the boiling water method (1/2-inch of head space, process for 10 minutes). Once sealed, the syrup will keep for years at room temperature (store opened jars in the refrigerator). Freezing is the best way to store it long-term without degrading the flavour or colour.

A cordial is a concentrate – they call it ‘squash’ in England, so you need to dilute to taste. Just pour a bit (1/4 cup is a generous dose for a large glass) over ice, and add water, bubbly water of choice or half of each. I adore it straight up like this, but I’m sure it’s also wonderful in cocktails. For linden flower cocktail recipes see Melina Hammer’s page.

Soak up the bliss….

Other serving suggestions:

  • Add linden blossom syrup to white wine or vodka for an aromatic aperitif.
  • Drizzle linden syrup over fresh fruit (it’s especially good with strawberries), yogourt, ice cream or cheesecake.
  • Add a small spoonful of linden flower syrup to heavy cream before whipping it for a delicately flavoured dessert topping.
  • Make homemade linden blossom ice cream by adding it to the mix.
  • Spoon a little linden syrup over a mild goat cheese (chevre).

Inspiration for my cordial recipe goes to: Melina HammerCeltNet, and About.com.

Urban Huntress Idea!

I just realized that a Linden flower jelly would be crazy good. I will just adapt my Fireweed jelly recipe (fireweed is also ready for harvesting now at low elevations, later at high elevations). Let me know if you try it!