Thursday, June 27, 2013
The ambrosial aroma of these tiny flowers draws millions of bees and creates linden honey, a pale colored honey despite it's strong aroma and taste. The aroma is described as woody, pharmacy and fresh, also described as mint, balsamic, menthol and camphor. Therapeutically the honey is used primarily for treating colds and fever and is said to strengthen the heart. It is reputed to be one of the best tasting and most valuable honeys in the world.
Medicinally the flowers have been used by herbalists to cure insomnia and nervous anxiety. A tissane is also good for colds, fevers and nervous headaches. It is said to be one of the best herbs for hypertension, second only to hawthorne.
I took a walk up my block one morning and harvested about a pound of linden blossoms. In the cool shade of the tree I had only to reach up and gently pull the copious blossoms into my muslin bag. They're drying in baskets laid with parchment all over the kitchen. I'm also tincturing some as I did last summer using successive batches of flowers macerated in the same alcohol. I'm planning to use it as a perfume base. It's a difficult aroma to capture and the absolutes I've sampled are lovely but don't come close to capturing it's elusive sweetness. Even the co2's I've come across, although close, don't really possess it's charms. It's on it's third round of flowers now and has turned a beautiful pale yellow/green. The aroma is sweet and has taken on some of the notes in the flowers. It doesn't have much tenacity and it's very faint but if the right notes are built around it and don't dominate it I think it will give some lovely top notes to a summery fragrance. (More on tincturing later.)
In Proust's Swann's Way the narrator dips a petite madeleine into a cup of Tilia blossom tea. The aroma and taste of cake and tea triggers his first conscious involuntary memory. Indeed, the gentle fragrance in the afternoon air triggers memories of June in the late 80's when I first moved to my neighborhood, Park Slope, and had to know where that iniminable fragrance was coming from.
"When from the distant past nothing remains, after the beings have died, after the things are destroyed and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, yet more vital, more insubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of everything else; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the immense architecture of memory.
"Yet again I had recalled the taste of a bit of madeleine dunked in a linden-flower tea which my aunt used to give me (although I did not yet know and must long await the discovery of why this memory made me so happy), immediately the old gray house on the street where her room was found, arose like a theatrical tableau…"
–Marcel Proust, Du côté de chez Swann (1913) in: À la recherche du temps perdu vol. 1, p. 47 (Pléiade ed. 1954)(S.H. transl.)