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Harvesting Tilia

By the Seed SistAs

Harvesting Tilia or Linden/Lime Blossoms is possibly one of the most pleasurable things to do on a summer’s day.  The scent is both uplifting and relaxing, putting one into a wonderful state of mind. One of our local trees has lower hanging branches so are at a perfect height to not have to bend or stretch too much to inhale the wonderful scent!

The trees are so beautiful, often planted around stately homes along the avenues as they grow really straight and tall forming lush walk ways or drives. Apparently Lime trees were planted by royal decree along many roads to ensure that the harvest of its flowers was plentiful, as it was highly respected and utilised for its many medicinal properties.

Lime trees are found lining city streets, on village greens and often turn up in the middle of farmer’s fields.  It’s confusing because the name, Lime flower suggests some association with the tangy green citrus lime but they bare no relation.  In fact,  Lime flowers are just being reclassified into the same family as the herb marshmallow.  With new genetic testing available some of Linnaeus’ plant families are being re-visited.  The marshmallow plant is particularly gelatinous in texture when you chew on the leaves and lime flower young leaves and buds are very similar.  Its Latin name is Tilia and there are many species growing in the UK.

In Celtic times right up to the middle ages, the Lime tree was considered sacred and it was common for judicial cases to be heard while the court sat under the tree as it was said to inspire fairness and justice.

When you are harvesting the Lime blossoms the honey scent is overwhelming and as you get close to the swathes of heart-shaped leaves and fragrant flowers you sense that the tree is alive with the hum of bees and insects making the best of such a rich source of nectar.

If left naturally to grow the branches bow down offering their flowers up to be easily harvested but often the trees lower branches are cut or grazed to be just out of reach.  On one harvesting escapade, we were found climbing on the roof of our van on order to reach some of the higher branches in a stately home.  The bounty was worth the effort.

Find a Linden Tree near you, identifiable by its floppy heart-shaped leaves with tiny little hairs running along the central vein on the back.  The leaves are different sizes depending on the species. 

Then you need to visit your chosen tree regularly to watch the progression of the flowers.  Here in the South of England its usually around mid-summer that the blossoms come but in just a few days they can blossom and then by the time you get to them the petals of the flowers will just waft away indicating that pollination has already occurred and the flowers will be less medicinally beneficial.

If you catch it just right, the tree will be buzzing with insects, the scent will be overwhelming and the petals will still be a beautiful delicate creamy colour.  The whole flowers actually look like they have a pale green elongated thin leaf at the base of the stem but this is actually part if the flower and should be picked for tea along with the actual flower head.  You will need a basket to collect your harvest in.  one of the lovely things about harvesting is that it usually sparks conversation with passersby who will be keen to hear about what you are doing and thus the knowledge spreads.

When you have a decent harvest, take it home, lay it out on newspaper and leave it somewhere warm and dry (an airing cupboard is perfect or by a log fire),  in a couple of days the flowers should be dry.   Keep them in an airtight jar out of direct sunlight.

Lime Blossom Tea

Take a small handful per tea-pot, pour on the boiling water, steep for 5-10 minutes and our out a delicious cup of relaxing, refreshing honey-scented tea.  Make a tea whenever you need to relax or unwind.

We mix it with Lemon Balm, Hawthorn and Rose buds in our Heart and Soul Tea – which is completely delicious. 

Linden helps to lower elevated blood pressure. High blood pressure often causes heart problems. When we live with chronic stress for extended periods, the musculature surrounding the arteries can become permanently contracted. This means that the opening through the artery is narrowed and the heart has to pump harder to get the blood through. Linden has gentle, relaxing properties that make it an excellent remedy for long-term stress, especially when it is affecting the cardiovascular system.

Recipe for Lime flower cordial

Ingredients for every litre of water:
300 grams of Lime blossoms – this translates as a small basket, loosely packed, when you’re out harvesting
500g organic light brown sugar
10ml of lemon juice


Lime blossoms grow in clusters on a stalk with a pale green, paddle shaped bract.

Remove the stalk and bract and put the flowers (with the green leaf looking-bract) into a bowl big enough to take the amount of water you’re using. Boil the water, pour over the blossoms, cover with a tea towel and leave to infuse overnight or for at least 8 hours.
Strain through a sieve lined with muslin. Leave this to do it by itself, don’t try and squeeze the cloth to hurry it up.
Bring the infusion to a simmer with the sugar and the lemon juice until the sugar has dissolved, then boil for 5 minutes. Taste and add more lemon if desired.

It keeps fine for a month in the fridge

The syrup is absolutely divine a flavour of honeyed pears, lovely as a drink, made into a sorbet or poured over ice-cream.

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