During June it’s difficult to walk across a public park without noticing the lime blossom (well, if you are a forager). The Jimmy Hendrix of the foraging world, Richard Mabey (Food for Free, Weeds, Flora Britanica, etc.) has observed that in the summer you can hear the Lime tree before you see it. Unfortunately, these days he is only half right as in some areas I, and many others, are noticing a marked decline in the bee population, but that’s another issue.
All UK lime blossom can be used to make a herbal tea and it the Lime, Tilia L, common name Linden to which I refer to and not the citrus lime a completley different species.
The three types of lime you are likely to come across in your local park are Tilia cordata – Small leafed lime, Tilia platyphyllos – Large leafed lime, Tilia x europaea or Tilia vulgaris the common lime.
Limes are one of my favorite trees (but then I say that as soon as I start talk about any tree), and these wonderful trees give us foragers so much. They can be tapped just like birch in very early spring/end of winter just as they are budding to give wonderfully refreshing sap. Then a little later in the spring, when the leaves appear these too can be eaten and fresh leaves are great in salads or just raw from the tree. The leaves too, incidentally, can still be eaten now they are a bit tough and therefore I like to cut out and discard the central stem then slice them into strips before adding them to stir fry – A little trick taught to me by my culinary advisor Harry Man. Lastly the lime give us their blossoms right about now in the middle of June. Of course, I’ve not even mentioned using the bark to make bags or clothing or that some chefs use the fruits. What a tree! Its of little wonder there is a lime tree at Westonbirt Arboretum that is thought to be over 10,000 years old. Its well worth a visit and if you are an old romantic like me standing under it evokes feelings of standing in the stone age.
Medicinal qualities of Lime blossom
At the moment I have quite high blood pressure and although being prescribed an ACE inhibitor I sought the advice of a good herbalist to try and have something that I was more comfortable taking – (when taking any herbs you should always speak to a registered herbal practitioner). He suggested a mixture of lime blossom and lemon balm. Perfect, they are both about right now. So cups of tea instead of pills, much more civilized (I think). One of the other benefits of taking them both of them too is that they have a calmative effect on the brain. What this I have found has mean in practice is that they both help you sleep. Especially when you can’t sleep as you have a lot on your mind or have been stressed. If you want to truly be knocked out add some chamomile, lemon verbena and valerian root into the mix.
I have to add that I also double checked this with my GP before taking myself off the ACE inhibitors – see notes at the bottom of this article.
Lime blossom/Linden tea is also great to use as a digestive aid. Unlike normal tea it contains very low levels of tannin, according to Bantram in his Encylopedia of Herbal Medicine tannins can inhibit true protein digestibility. This simply means lime blossom/linden tea help true digestion. I like to have a cup after a Sunday lunch or a big meal as it really helps keep the farts down!
Lime blossom tea has also been used traditionally for relief in the early stages of influenza and colds.
How to forage lime blossom
To picking lime blossom firstly find a lime tree, many Victorian parks are lined with them and this is always a good place to start. Otherwise, they are often the trees that line our suburbs, the ones that get pruned to withing an inch of their lives in the winter/early spring before filling up with leafs and looking like the poodle of the tree world. They are sometimes found in natural woodlands and are also part of the native woodland mix of trees being planted now and recent years by the woodland trust, so expect more in years to come.
Once you have found your tree just pluck off the whole bit of blossom, bract and all (the papery leaf bit). These can then be dried, I sometimes hang them up in bunches on my stairs. Or just put them across my dinner table away from natural light for a few days until fully dried. You could also use a dehydrator if you wanted to waste some money on electricity as you have no patience.
Once dried they can be stored in an air tight container right up until next year when they come out again. They will of course loose their potency over time, so I tend to increase the amount I use over the seasons to compensate and by early spring the following year I might be using 8-10 blossoms instead of 3-5.
Linden Tea/Lime blossom tea/Tilleul
To make take two-five blossoms per person and place in a tea cup/tea pot and pour over boiled water. Leave to infuse for about 3-5 mins. Add honey for taste. Drink freely, especially after meals and before bed time.
The please don’t sue me bit.
Lime blossom is a mild sedative so caution is advised if driving or using heavy machinery. If taking Lime blossom for a medical condition, as with all medicines herbal or otherwise, be sure to seek medical advice before doing so.