DEER ISLE — What the world needs now is love, sweet love, to quote Burt Bacharach. Love and a cup of hibiscus or linden flower infusion or perhaps a cooling glass of cucumber and lemon balm water.
The drinks are the suggestions of Deer Isle herbalist Brighid Doherty, who founded the Solidago School of Herbalism in 2018. Doherty has been an herbalist for 25 years. You might know her if you’ve ever taken an herb walk through Island Heritage Trust.
Solidago is the botanical name for goldenrod. It stems from the Latin meaning to make whole and strong.
“My whole mission is basically to bring herbal medicine back into the home as people’s medicine,” Doherty said.
Back to the drinks.
suggests making a Linden flower infusion.
“It’s both cooling and soothing and delicious,” she said. “It’s a great anti-inflammatory and soothes and calms the nervous system.” Linden (Tilia species) can be helpful if people are feeling stressed. “It also is a heart tonic.”
“It tastes delicious,” Doherty said. “It’s very floral and sweet. Children like it.” The herbalist described the flavor of Linden as a floral “like jasmine but not as pungent. It’s very popular in France. They use it as a cold and flu tea.”
Linden flowers are harvested from linden trees, but fear not if you don’t have or know of a linden tree.
The flowers can be found online. Doherty likes the Frontier Co-op brand. Or, you can get linden flower tea locally at John Edwards Market. However, the properties of the tea aren’t nearly as strong as what you would get from making a drink from an infusion of the flowers.
If you order linden flowers, order the whole blossom.
“I like to get the whole
linden flowers versus the cut and sifted,” she said. Linden is a demulcent, which means anti-inflammatory, but the cut and sifted petals can be a little “too slimy” for people, Doherty said. Whole linden flowers are less so.
The ratio for making a linden infusion is a half-ounce of linden flowers to a quart of boiling water. Doherty uses a quart mason jar. “I put a lid on it and cover it tightly,” she said. “Let it steep on the counter for four to eight hours.” It’s a good thing to prepare before you go to bed, then it’s all ready in the morning.
Use a kitchen scale to weigh the blossoms. “They are light and fluffy and so it will seem like a lot,” the herbalist said.
Then you’ll strain the infusion using whatever you have — a mesh strainer, paper coffee filter or drip ceramic filter. Doherty said she likes to chill it for an hour before she strains it.
Then, after straining, store the infusion in the refrigerator for three or four days.
“It doesn’t go bad, too quickly, but you do have to drink it up,” Doherty said. “Drink it over ice or warm it up with honey.”
Or you can make your own linden tea — a teaspoon to a tablespoon of the infusion in your teacup then pour hot water to fill the cup. “It’s just not going to be as medicinal that way.”
Do you have a Zoom happy hour on your schedule?
Linden infusion can make a great cocktail, according to Doherty. “We made ice cubes with the linden infusion and poured vodka over that.” Top it off with more linden infusion and a bit of bubbly water. Garnish with a whole, dry linden flower.
Hibiscus flower infusion also is recommended for these or any trying times or just for having a delicious drink, the herbalist said.
“If people are under a lot of stress, hibiscus (Hibiscus rozelle) can be especially helpful in helping to reduce that,” she said. “It’s also known to be a heart tonic and modulate blood pressure.”
Hibiscus petals are readily available in bulk at the Blue Hill Food Co-op or at John Edwards Market.
“A fun idea is to make a strong hibiscus infusion and then put it in ice cube trays so you have hibiscus ice cubes and add that to water so slowly as it melts, it will be this nice refreshing hibiscus tea,” she said.
A hibiscus flower infusion is the same ratio as the linden flower infusion: a half ounce of hibiscus petals to a quart of boiling water.
“You can add hibiscus ice cubes to lemonade,” said Doherty. “It’s awesome on a hot summer day.”
Doherty had a booth at the Stonington Farmers Market and sold plenty of hibiscus mint iced tea.
“That was a favorite of people,” she said. “They’d say ‘that was just what I needed.’ And often they ordered another one.”
To make hibiscus mint tea, put four teaspoons of chopped hibiscus flowers and four tablespoons of fresh mint leaves in a quart mason jar or a teapot and fill with boiling water. Let it steep for 20 minutes and strain. Let it cool and serve over ice.
“Serve with a sprig of mint if you want to make it fancy,” Doherty said.
Finally, a cucumber lemon balm water is another recommendation for warmer weather.
Peel and thinly slice a cucumber, add to a quart mason jar
Put four to six tablespoons of fresh lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) in a quart mason jar and muddle or crush the leaves with a wooden spoon or a muddler to release the oils. Add a peeled and thinly sliced cucumber or half a cucumber. Cover with cold water and put a lid on it. Chill in the refrigerator for one to three hours.
If you don’t have lemon balm, use fresh mint leaves.
“The longer it sits, the stronger the flavor,” Doherty said. Serve over ice. “Use your hibiscus ice cubes —which would be festive.” Serve with a sprig of lemon balm or a sprig of mint if you’ve substituted mint for the lemon balm.
If you’ve always wondered what herbs and native plants you have growing on your property, Doherty offers herb walks to identify what’s growing on your land and how to use the plants medicinally.
“A lot of people have signed up for a spring, a summer and a fall walk so they can work with herbs in their prime,” she said.
Doherty also educates people about herbs in a virtual format. She has created more drink recipes, which she’s happy to send to The American’s readership. See: http://www.solidagoherbschool.com/blog/2020/5/6/cooling-and-soothing-herbal-drinks-recipes-and-tidbits.