Harvesting Linden Blossoms
In the neighborhood where I live, many of the trees that line the streets are lindens. I was not really aware of this until a day several summers ago when I was walking home from work. It was a warm late June evening and the still air was filled with an intoxicating, sweet floral fragrance that seemed to come from everywhere. A little following my nose revealed that this wonderful summer smell was coming from the multitudinous yellow flowers of the trees all around me.
A little research yielded the identity of these trees and a lot of information about the use of linden blossoms. It seems that linden blossoms are collected in much of Europe and the UK (where Lindens are called “lime” trees…I guess there are no actual citrus lime trees growing in England, so the confusion never arises), especially in Provence, where there are actually seasonal markets in linden blossoms. Folk wisdom has it that linden blossom tea is a sleep aid and the blossoms are also used in herbal medicines and tinctures.
My main interest in these blossoms is their incredible fragrance and specifically, the question of whether it was possible to capture it in a liqueur. If a liqueur made with linden blossoms also had soporific properties, well I suppose that would be useful in certain situations as well.
My friend David and I began making plans to answer this question after the success of the cherry blossom liqueur, the blossoms for which we had together harvested the previous year. Our plan of action was to use the same basic recipe as for the cherry blossom liqueur, but we differed as the the alcohol that we thought would provide the best result; David favored grappa, I thought it would be best to stick with vodka. With plan in mind, it remained only to wait for the lindens to bloom.
The waiting proved to be a much longer process that expected. In the past I had noted that the lindens in my neighborhood bloom in mid to late June. This year has been unseasonably cold and grey, with the result that the lindens still had not bloomed on the first of July. Believe me, we checked…nice fat buds but no flowers.
On July 2nd the tiny yellow blossoms began to appear, their scent announcing the arrival before we noticed the blooms. A scouting stroll indicated that many of the buds had not opened yet, so we made plans for picking blossoms two days later. By then the blossoms were in there full glory, the linden trees literally robed in the heavy, hanging flowers. Time to harvest.
Believe me, the trees were so heavy with blooms that the bowls full we snipped were barely noticeable or missed. At least I hope they were not.
After the harvest, the process of macerating the blossoms in liqueur followed pretty much the same pattern as for the cherry blossoms. David and I put down our two batches of blossoms to macerate each in a different alcohol.
After about 3 days, the vodka was beginning to take on a slightly tawny color from the flowers.
About 15 days later, my vodka had taken on a lovely amber hue and smelled richly of linden. I strained it and added a bit of sugar syrup. Now begins the wait of 5 to 6 months, during which time the alcohol heat of the vodka will diminish and the liqueur will mellow. The resulting liqueur should be ready to enjoy in December 2011. Stay tuned for an update later in the year.