Linden – Lime – Basswood Honey

Linden - Bassword (Tilia americana)

Obtained from the blossoms of Linden or Basswood trees of several species of Tilia; it is known as Linden or Basswood honey in North America and Lime honey in the UK and Europe. It is a premier honey that has been enjoyed for thousands of years. At the height of blossoming in a Linden grove or on a street lined with Linden trees, the ambrosial aroma of the tiny yellow-white flowers surrounds you and draws bees from miles around. Among the most common Linden trees in the United States is the Tilia americana and the White Basswood (Tilia heterophylla). The White Basswood is known as the Bee tree because of the generous amounts of nectar produced by its drooping clusters of flowers (similar to most of the Tilia species). Linden trees and honey are most common east of the Mississippi especially in the more temperate northern regions. Linden grow strongly around the Appalachians. It is also found in central and eastern European countries, Russia and China as the Small-leaved Lime (Tilia Cordata). During strong nectar flows it can be seen glistening on the flowers like morning dew. Nectar flows in late spring to early summer and flows strongest in warm humid weather.

Linden - Basswood- Lime Honey

The species of Tilia does not affect the sensory characteristics of Linden Honey, the following applies for Linden honey from all species of Linden. The intensity of the aroma and the taste is stronger than the color would indicate. The usual rule of darker is stronger is broken with Linden honey. When very fresh it has a greenish color, but after a time it becomes clear to amber with a yellow tone. The aroma is described as woody, pharmacy and fresh, also described as mint, balsamic, menthol and camphor. It has low acidity, medium sweet and sometimes a light bitterness. It has a persistent aftertaste and is slightly astringent. The crystallization rate is medium to fast with fine to medium sized crystals. Other aromatic notes (see chemical analysis below): spicy-thyme, mentholated, geranium, hay, phenolic. It goes well with lemon sherbet or herbal teas.

Therapeutic (folk remedies): Linden honey has a wide range of applications, it is primarily used for treating colds and fevers as a diaphoretic, and it is used as a fortifying agent and supports the heart. In Eastern Europe and Russia, it is widely used in the treatment of sore throat, rhinitis, and laryngitis. Linden honey mixed with lemon is used to overcome upcoming colds, and along with tea is said to help in the treatment of liver and gall bladder, and relieve inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. It is applied externally to help heal festering sores on the skin, eczema, and burns.

The Linden tree has played many roles in history, both symbolic and practical. Since pre-Christian times in Europe, it has been known as a mystical tree of life, tree of health, judicial tree, victory tree, fertility tree and as a social or dance tree. Linden trees where mentioned by the ancient Roman naturalist Pliny and in Greek mythology. And with good cause. Linden trees grow high to over 100 feet with large, heart-shaped leaves and multitudes of blossoms with a sweet smell like that of mignonette. With a lifetime of over a thousand years, it was often planted at the center of a town where it became a meeting spot for generations of town leaders and townspeople’s social events. With such a venerable history, many nations have named cities after the Linden and cities with the name, “Linden,” may be found in Australia through Europe to the USA (where cities may be found in a dozen states). “Lipa”, the Linden tree is the national symbol of Slovenia and has played a central part in Slovenia’s history from pre Roman times. The famous Rut Linden Tree, grows beside a church in the middle of the beautiful mountain hamlet of Rut, above the Baška Grapa Valley. It is said to be one of the most magnificent trees in Slovenia; more than 850 years old, it has a girth of 26 feet.

Mentioned in many ancient writings and stories, one of the most famous is the Roman myth of the poverty-stricken but proud Phrygian couple, Baucis and Philemon, who are rewarded by the gods, Jupiter and Mercury, in thanks for their hospitality, by granting them eternity together as a Linden and Oak tree.

Identifying odors through chemical analysis:
To credibly market honey, a great deal of research is being done to be able to reliably identify and confirm the source of honey. The usual technique used to identify a monofloral honey is pollen, but there has been some work to identify chemical volatile compound markers that are unique to specific monofloral honeys. These volatile markers have their own odors; knowing these, and when they are present in detectable concentrations, one can discover subtle aromatic notes otherwise missed. For instance, two major components responsible for the odor of Linden honey are, terpenes linden ether (3,9-epoxy-1,4(8)-p-menthadiene) that has a flowery, mint-like odor, and cis-rose oxide that has a powerful, green, geranium type odor.

Other components found to uniquely identify Linden honey. Listed as, component: odor
a/ ethylmethylphenol isomer (>31 ppb): phenolic (scorched, hospital-like, pharmaceutical, bakelite)
b/ 4-tert-butylphenol, estragole (>51 ppb): phenolic (scorched, hospital-like, pharmaceutical, bakelite)
c/ p-methylacetophenone: hay
d/ monoterpene-derived compounds (menthol, thymol,8-p-menthene-1,2-diol, and carvacrol (>76 ppb)): spicy-thyme, mentholated
e/ methyl(1-methylethenyl)benzene: vegetable

Honey Origins: United States, Canada, France, Spain, Germany, East & South East Europe, Russia, Poland

Latin Name: Tilia ssp., Tilia americana, Tilia heterophylla, Tilia Cordata

Translations: Italian: Miele di Tiglio, France: Miel de Tilleul, German: Lindenhonig, Spanish: Miel de Tilo, Lithuanian: liepų medaus, Bulgarian: липа мед, Russian: Липовый мед, Slovenia: Lipov med, Polish: Miód lipowy
References, additional reading:
- Interesting note on perfumery and Linden
- Volatile Compounds used to identify Chestnut and Lime Tree Honeys. Christine Guyot, Amina Bouseta, Vincent Scheirman, and Sonia Collin* from J. Agric. Food Chem. 1998, 46, 625-633| S0021-8561(97)00510-4 CCC: $15.00 © 1998 American Chemical Society, Published on Web 01/17/1998 (pdf 168 KB)