For the past week, the intoxicating fragrance of linden has been wafting through the New York City parks; and with that new scent comes a palpable change: life feels a little softer. For several weeks starting in mid June, linden trees blossom here as well as in France (there they call it tilleul). Its tiny yellow flowers emit the scent of honey, vines and the most delicate florals that wafts around on air currents.
It is worth stopping and just…breathing in a scent that defies everything that is going on in the world.
Rimbaud described the change in the air perfectly in this first part of his poem Romance:
When you are seventeen you aren’t really serious.
– One fine evening, you’ve had enough of beer and lemonade,
And the rowdy cafes with their dazzling lights!
– You go walking beneath the green lime trees of the promenade.
The lime trees smell good on fine evenings in June!
The air is so soft sometimes, you close your eyelids;
The wind, full of sounds, – the town’s not far away –
Carries odours of vines, and odours of beer…
It’s even better in French, spoken aloud…
On n’est pas sérieux, quand on a dix-sept ans.
– Un beau soir, foin des bocks et de la limonade,
Des cafés tapageurs aux lustres éclatants !
– On va sous les tilleuls verts de la promenade.
Les tilleuls sentent bon dans les bons soirs de juin !
L’air est parfois si doux, qu’on ferme la paupière ;
Le vent chargé de bruits – la ville n’est pas loin –
A des parfums de vigne et des parfums de bière….
And the great Mitch Epstein captured the spirit of a sublime old linden in New York City, in his sublime book New York Arbor:
Linden blossoms and leaf bracts (the elongated “second” leaf on the branches) make a fragrant tisane that is deeply relaxing. You can steep the fresh flowers and leaf bracts directly in boiling water to make tea and/or dry them to have for the months to come.*
Read about how to forage linden here. We found, but haven’t tried, an interesting recipe for Linden Cordial here.