Thursday, July 22, 2010

Forgotten Foods- Linden

During our recent trip to Maine, our friend and local guru, Leif, pointed out that we have a linden tree behind our cabin.  And... that the linden produced edible fruits that have a flavor somewhat akin to chocolate.  Chocolate?  I say, let's move into the cabin right now! 

Ok, we can't relocate just yet.  When we got home, however, you bet I went on line to learn more about this chocolate-like linden fruit.  As it turns out, it's not just the fruits, but also the flowers and leaves that are edible as well.  Cooking with linden is part of older, traditional recipes in places like England, Germany, and France where the linden is abundant.  Thankfully, it grows well in New England.

The young fruits contain a nut-like seed that when ground tastes similar to cocoa powder.  However, older fruits produce seed that taste more like coffee.  Yes, that's right, coffee!  Actually, the description is a coffee-like flavor with a hint of chocolate.  Yum!  Hot mocha in the morning!  That's when my husband said, "Ok, so where do we buy more of these linden trees?"  Since I don't drink coffee, I was happy to learn that the blossoms can be used for tea, and that the blossoms would have a gentle, calming effect.

Of course, the trick is to be able to collect enough of the linden seeds to make either the cocoa powder or coffee grind substitutes.  You need a lot, so unless you have a lot of linden trees, you may only get a few bites of chocolate or a few cups of mocha.  And yes, we have already sourced out a local supplier of linden trees. 

Store the seeds as seeds, not ground up.  Once ground, it doesn't hold its flavor well.  Once blended with the blossoms and grape seed oil to make linden chocolate, it does not store well.  It will last only a few days in the freezer.  Thankfully, the nut-like seeds store well and they can be ground as needed. 

Perhaps the most practical use of linden, however, is using the leaves to make flour.  Linden leaf flour can be used in combination with other flours and grains to bake breads, cakes, and porridge, or be used as a thickener for soups.  I found a few web sites with information on using linden in cooking, but this one had the most, and it's just a cool site overall.  Check out Celtnet Recipes.  Click here to go directly to their linden recipe page.

Live better, a little every day.

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