The linden trees bloomed late this year.
Their flowers, while pleasant, aren’t particularly showy. They don’t pop out in April or May, when all the crabapple, redbud, magnolia, ornamental pear, and cherry trees are showing off. I wasn’t even cognizant of them the first 30+ years of my life. It was only when I was getting a certificate at College of DuPage and walked along a gloriously scented avenue for a few days in June that I finally asked, “What is that fragrance?”
Lindens. Now I seek them out every year and find them all over. Thank heaven. Which is what they smell like.
I understand they’re a popular tree in Germany and had the occasion to ask a German friend (Simone Heller, who is the brilliant writer of such stories as “When We Were Starless” and “How Bees Fly”) if she liked them as well.
She shared this story from her childhood:
There were three enormous old linden trees behind our house, and I used to get up on a ladder with my dad to “help” with harvesting – most important thing was to look out for bees also interested in the flowers. We harvested the flowers only. I have discovered some places that serve linden flower around here as a hot or cold infusion during the last years, and they have harvested the seeds, too (the parts with the wings). They look very nice and it doesn’t hurt to have them, but the aroma and the pharmaceutical components are mostly in the flowers.
We used to gather them in a basket to not squish them, and then bring them up to the attic to dry them over a longer period of time, spread out on a big cloth. They should dry in a shadowed place is what I remember, not in the sun. They were used in winter then, because they are good against the symptoms of colds or to prevent colds. But when I rediscovered them a few years ago, I found they also taste very good, mild, slightly sweet, and a lot like the blooming flowers smell. I remember not being so thrilled by the taste as a child, probably because they were used as a medicine, more or less.
We have to do some major regrading and drainage work in our yard and the old tripping hazard of a silver maple that makes it practically impossible to mow will soon be removed. We’re thinking of replacing it with a linden tree.
I don’t see myself harvesting linden flowers and creating infusions from them any time soon, but I love the idea that it’s possible…