For about two weeks every summer, you can harvest the beautiful, fragrant flowers of the linden tree and use them to make a delicious syrup. Here in upstate New York, the flowers have just finished but those of you who live further north may be in luck.
There are about 30 or so different species of beautiful, stately trees in the genus Tilia. And they have several common names -- in Britain, they're called either lime trees or linden trees and in North America, they may also be called basswood trees. But linden is my favorite so I'm sticking with it.
Each little spray of flowers (I just learned that each individual grouping of flowers is called an "inflorescence" which I love the sound of) has a thin, papery, green "bract" at the bottom of it. Although the bracts are edible, I removed them before making the syrup as they don't add much in the way of flavor and have a tendency to make things mucilaginous. You want to pick the flowers when some of them have yet to open - that way you do not get them too late.
Making the flower-infused simple syrup is easy - all you need is lemons, water, sugar, linden flowers and patience.
You start by heating the sugar and water (in this case, I used some agave, too, but you can use all sugar and the color of the syrup will likely be lighter). While it's heating, give the flowers a rinse and a little shake. Once the simple syrup is ready, simply add the flowers along with some lemon juice and zest and give it a stir.
Let it come to room temperature then put it in the fridge (covered) and wait a few days for the flavor of the flowers to infuse the syrup. When the time is right, drain the solids and store the flower-infused syrup in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month.
Use it to make cocktails (see here). Or just add it to some seltzer with a little lemon juice for a delicious spritzer. It's great with fruit or yogurt and it was divine drizzled over the panna cotta with strawberries. Just a note: many other parts of the linden tree are also edible and have various medicinal uses. You can also simply dry the flowers to make a floral tea.
Linden Blossom Syrup
Makes roughly 3 pints
* 3 cups water
* 5 cups linden blossoms (choose sprays that have some flowers that are open and some buds that are not)
* 4 organic lemons, zest and juice (make sure not to include any of the white pith)
* 1 lb organic cane sugar
* 1 1/2 cups organic agave nectar
1. Add the sugar and agave nectar to the water in a non-reactive pot (no copper) and bring just to a boil, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved.
2. Rinse the blossoms and give a little shake to remove any bugs or dirt. Take the pot off the heat and add the lemon juice, zest and flowers.
3. Cover and leave on the counter for about a day then put in the fridge for two to four days to give the flowers time to infuse their flavor into the syrup. Four days is better than two.
4. Pour the syrup through a fine-meshed metal sieve, cheesecloth or a jelly bag into the glass jars or bottles of your choice (I used three glass pint-sized Mason jars) Remove sugar water from the heat and add the lemon juice, zest, and flowers. Cover, allow to come to room temperature, and set aside for a day. Screw the lids on tight and refrigerate - it should keep for at least a month (just check the top for mold :))
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