Happy Summer wherever and however you estivate (or hibernate – in the Southern Hemisphere)!
My Summer (and all other seasons) is spent wherever there are green trees (and possibly blue waves). Currently, my home is infused with the sweet scent of gently drying linden tree flowers.
The aroma is as honeyed as an evening stroll amongst the linden trees. So swooningly attractive, that a bee has, for once, overlooked the chive, red clover, chamomile and marjoram flowers in the window boxes and headed directly for my kitchen!
She was safely escorted out on the soft, colourful feather duster, especially used for that purpose!
Smell holds memory and emotions via the limbic system, as do other senses, for example, mint transports me instantly to my childhood at my Grandmother’s – in glorious, detailed, visual technicolour – where we picked mint and potatoes for lunch.
Also, my previous post about bluebells:
Linden, for me, is redolent of balmy Summers in France. At a place I stayed in Provence, a linden tree overhung the swimming pool and, when the wind blew strongly in the evenings before dinner, flowers covered the surface of the pool! Drawn by the full floral fragance, we bathed in linden flower water!
I’ve always had an exceptionally keen sense of smell – which doesn’t always feel advantageous especially these days with a cocktail of 80,000+ chemicals in the home and external atmosphere – but it is, nevertheless, a warning system as to what poisons are about to be inhaled. As a child, I’d run from anywhere that had bottled tomato sauce, baked beans, milk or deep fried foods i.e. the smell of rancid oil – which I could detect long before entering a place.
Now, I flee from “parfum” a nasty chemical added to so many personal and domestic care products that people use. I find all man-made chemicals utterly repellant.
We must protect this vital and wonderful olfactory organ and its important ability to sense more than one trillion odours, as it can so easily be damaged by inhaling such toxic substances.
In the 1970s, a friend in the SAS told me that when they were once on manoeuvre in the jungle, they were given three days advance to cover their tracks, before a few members of a tribe set off to find them.
They did – and easily – because they could smell the SAS men even at distance, as a result of the meat they ate!
So-called air/car fresheners, for example, utilise chemicals that are nasal anaesthetics (as well as chemicals that are endocrine disruptors, mood and health deformers) – so the odour and its cause are still there – but you are no longer capable of detecting it.
Back to Earth-grown, uplifting, life-giving and soul soaring scents for our olfactory receptors!
I’ve been lucky to find one of the linden trees that still has fresh, young flowers on the lower branches. This is my second second batch this year collected for infusions in the coming months.
Sometimes I leave them to dry naturally or I put them in the dehydrator on low. Make sure your herbs are completely dry as a crisp before storage, (unless making tinctures) otherwise, mould will develop in storage and all your efforts will have been for naught.
Juliette de Bairacli Levy, herbalist, authoress and noted pioneer of wholistic veterinary treatments for animals who lived with gypsies in many countries learning about Nature, kept her herbs in paper bags hanging from the ceiling to keep rodents from eating them.
After drying, you can also store the herbs in paper bags or until you are sure they are completely dried, as this allows them to breathe without becoming mouldy. Much depends upon how much space you have – and I have little – so I wait until the herbs are totally dried and use airtight jars.
I keep the dried flowers in a sealed glass jar, stored in a dark cupboard. Such a joy to share the vitality of the tree I know so well; and is here consumed from special cups once a gift to – and from – my Grandmother.
When I pick herbs or flowers, I’m totally at one and timelessly immersed with the plant. It’s a divine activity of reconnection. People stop to ask me what I’m doing, sometimes silent, singing or giving thanks, as I snip and gather flowers, totally absorbed.
Yesterday, a squirrel determined to get my attention, climbed right along the branch to greet me face to face, finding my rustling bag misleadingly irresistable!
In the early Spring, linden/lime leaves have these lime or red nail galls (below) which I find fascinating! They are caused by the chemical residue of a mite called: eriophyes tiliae that lives in the bark. This doesn’t bother the tree and perhaps ladybirds eat the mites.
These are different from the aphids that spawned the warning: “never park your car under a linden tree”. They also secrete sap from the leaves – yet the sticky leaves are considered a delicacy to some people! Ants protect aphids and herd aphids like cattle, as they also enjoy the aphids’ sweet sap.
The pale, elongated leaves are part of the flower but, on the second picking, after the Summer Solstice has passed they are browning or nibbled a bit, so I leave them out and just use the flowers. The pale leaves give a more intense flavour to the infusion though.
I look up longingly to all trees with such profound love and thanks.
Mallow flowers in salads or eaten directly from the plant, are also delectably delicious at this time of year.