“Her hair was long, her limbs were white,
And fair she was and free;
And in the wind she went as light
As leaf of linden-tree.” –J.R.R. Tolkien
I’ve always had a fondness for Linden trees. Overseas, they are also popularly called “lime trees,” although they have nothing to do with the citrus fruit. I prefer calling them “Linden trees” because some say that is where my name, Lindsay, comes from (not at all self-centered of me).
Tilia europaea is a fairly common tree, often found lining parks and avenues. It has clusters of small white flowers that smell sweet and fresh when in bloom. It is an unusual-looking tree in that its flowers spring directly from a specialized leaf called a “subtending bract.” These leaves look entirely different from the main leaves of the tree. Here, I will show you:
See how the stem of the flowers is attached to the long, light-green leaf? That is the bract, which is then attached to the primary leaf of the tree. There, now you know more than you ever wanted to know about Linden tree anatomy. Don’t worry, there won’t be a quiz.
What is far more interesting about T. europaea than a subtending bract is its history in mythology and natural medicine. It has long been treasured by cultures around the world as having both restorative and magical properties. In Baltic mythology, for example, women are said to have prayed and made sacrifices under the Linden tree, which would bring luck and fertility. Ancient Germanic tribes held trials by the tree, believing that you could not tell a lie under its branches. I myself have spilled all kinds of secrets beneath a Linden tree. Most recently, I confessed to my husband that I had accidentally used his toothbrush that morning and that I, in fact, did not care for the TV show, “The West Wing.” (Seriously, the camera work: why are they always fast-walking toward me? It makes me feel like I’m in the way or something.)
But let’s move on to the medicinal properties of T. europaea. The flowers, in particular, are prized by herbalists for their ability to impact the nerves. The volatile oils found in the flowers have a mildly sedating effect. Linden flower tea, therefore, is just what the doctor ordered after a stressful day (or stressful two-months of confinement). I can personally attest to its calming abilities. The smell alone is enough to send me to a happier place. I like to combine it with lavender, catnip, chamomile and honey for a delightfully fragrant and lightly sweet drink. The aforementioned herbs also have medicinal use as mild sedatives, so they serve to enhance the relaxation-inducing abilities of this drink.
If you have children, this is a wonderful drink for them when they are sick. Honey is perfect for little coughs and the rest is soothing, tastes great and helps them sleep. (Please do not give honey to anyone under age one, though!)
Linden Lavender Honey Iced Tea
Makes Four 8 oz Servings
32 ounces boiling water
2 tbsp dried linden leaf and flower (or 4 tablespoons fresh flowers)*
1/2 tsp dried lavender flowers
1 tsp dried chamomile flowers
1 tsp dried catnip
4 white tea bags
2 tbsp raw honey
Steep the white tea bags and herbs in the freshly boiled water for at least ten minutes minutes. Add the honey while the water is still hot. After at least ten minutes, remove tea bags and strain out herbs. Pour the infusion over ice. Garnish with a lavender sprig, if you are lucky enough to have one!
*Linden trees bloom between May and July, depending on your location. Here in Colorado, I tend to find them blooming closer to mid-June, but it really does depend on how warm and dry it has been. They only bloom for two weeks, so keep your eyes (and nostrils) open for them if you are hoping to collect them fresh!
I hope you enjoy this drink. I am off to drink mine in the sunshine with a ginger cookie and a good book.
A votre santé,