Harvesting Linden Blossoms

Linden Trees in bloom, July 2011

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.

Late June 2011: buds but no blossoms.

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.

July 3, 2011: Now we got blossoms.

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.

David

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.

The harvest

Separating the Leaves and stems from the blossoms.

Packing the blossoms in jars for macerating.

 

The first day on vodka.

After about 3 days, the vodka was beginning to take on a slightly tawny color from the flowers.

Three days on vodka.

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.

The finished liqueur ready for 5-6 months of aging.

 

 

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18 Responses to Harvesting Linden Blossoms

  1. sheila says:

    linen trees “bloom” they don’t “blood”; they are also used in perfumes and lotions……L’Occitaine for example, does a linden blossom line seasonally………..

  2. David says:

    further research on my part has revealed that in the French recipes for this spirit, the flower AND the bract (the little helicopter blade) are ‘steeped’ together for flavor; Jim and I trimmed ours off and used the blossoms only. Next year, I plan to try the other method and see if there is a measurable difference.

    • Jim says:

      Thanks for that insight David…I have also read that you can pickle the seed pod that develops after the blooming has finished, like a caper berry. Might be interesting.
      JD

  3. Pierrette says:

    Linden tree( Tilleul) est aussi bon pour faire de la tisane..And in pharmacie I am sure you can still buy some dried flowers ready to make la “tisane” easy on the stomac of young age & elders,

  4. maya says:

    How did the finished product turn out after a bit of mellowing?

  5. Shelly says:

    Any helpful hints for a beginner we have 2 huge Linden trees in our yard a friend said you can make this stuff into cocktails ha, ha but YOURS is the best research found husband and son VERY confused about the water and sugar or use Syrup sugar which I have no idea what or how to make or buy ASAP me any hints as the blossoms are in 1st stage…Thanks Tom, Shelly

    • Jim says:

      For 1.25 liters of vodka flavored with linden blossoms: bring to a boil .7 grams of sugar and .15 liters water. When it boils, stir well remove from heat and let sit until cool. This is your syrup. Add to the flavored vodka to taste…I find that this amount of syrup is about the amount needed but if you like your liqueur more or less sweet, just vary the amount of syrup you add.

      • Shelly says:

        Is the other recipe for Cherry Blossom with the coriander seeds and orange peel , bay leaf etc.. a whole different recipe? Me and my son are in a disagreement I say you have to add the orange peel, seeds, bay leaf etc…method he said NO MOM that is a totally different way to make it we just have to add the sugar and water? I just said don’t want to ruin over $40 worth of vodka we bought to make this..Thanks Jim…my email is Shellyjo40@yahoo.com Probably I’m wrong..but you can be the judge since you have the recipe..The Vodka and blossoms from tree have been sitting for 2 wks on Saturday the 13th July..Thanks again

  6. Richard says:

    Sometimes we make what we call ‘rum topf’. Basically, you put a layer of fresh fruit in season into a large crock pot. You ad dark rum until the fruit starts to float. Then you add sugar until the fruit sinks down below the level of the rum. Say you start with strawberries. Next come the peaches, you do the same thing on top of the strawberries. More rum, another layer of sugar, next come pears, do it again, next are the black currants, then the blueberries etc.; each time you repeat the routine – rum until the fruit rises, then sugar until it sinks. Then let stand and be patient. Around Christmas, try, and then try to stop yourself. The liqueur goes into the glass, the “mash” goes over ice cream or yogurt or whatever your preference. I suppose one could bake a cake that would rival the reputation of “Black Forest Kirsch Torte”. Don’t try to count the calories. With great sef-control we once managed to keep a pot undesturbed until a year later. When we got into it, it was close, but no, there was no blood shed over who gets the last drop.
    I suppose the same process could be followed with linden blossoms, except one would have ‘just’ that one, pure flavor of linden. I’ll try it. There is a linden tree shadowing our deck, the blossoms are opening and are within easy reach. The only competition are the bees.

  7. Earlene says:

    The Russian “Czar” brand linden blossom vodka is sweetened with linden honey. Can be found in eastern European/Russian grocery stores. I got hooked in Germany and searched out when home near Seattle.

  8. Jana says:

    Hey Please Please Please let me know where I can find a blossoming linden tree in Seattle. Please give exact location. I am from eastern Europe and grew up with drinking linden tree tea. It reminds me of my childhood years and home. I was able to find imported linde tea, but it’s not the same. The taste is barely resembles what I remember.

    I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you.

    Jana

    • Jim says:

      Lindens grow well in Seattle so can be found in many neighborhoods. Try First Hill, on 9th Ave and Terry Ave between John and Madison.

  9. Anna Crowe says:

    I found all this utterly fascinating. Am just back from a poetry reading in Berlin, where the scent of lindenbloom was intoxicating. I am wondering whether I could make something along the same lines, but with elderflower … I usually just make elderflower sorbet, this time of year (it’s very prolific in Fife, Scotland). Nice if you’re lactose-intolerant, as I am.
    There’s a fabulous poem by the late US poet, Amy Clampitt, called Lindenbloom, in her collection, ‘The Kingfisher’, which is on the web. It’s set in Avignon and has glancing touches of a delightful humour!

    • Jim says:

      I think that elderflower could be used in the same manner, may need a bit of experimentation for exact quantities used etc. Good Luck!

  10. Anna says:

    Thanks Jim for an ace site and recipe. I usually just dry it for tea, but will be making the drink this year! Watching my trees carefully…I think tomorrow will be harvesting day!

  11. Dan Smieja says:

    Would love to give something like this a try myself, but its now July 5th and my linden shows no sign of producing blossoms this year. Last year was the first year the tree produced flowers. Its been a cool, very rainy spring/early summer in Minnesota. Do lindens bloom every year? Would I still have a shot at trying this in 2014 or will I have to wait until next year?

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