Monday, June 25, 2012

Trees make good wine!

Species name: Tilia cordata

Common name: Littleleaf linden, small-leaved lime

Location: Ontario

While this species of tree is incredibly common in Ontario (and much of the rest of Canada and the United States), it is not a native species. It is originally from Europe and Asia, but has existed as an ornamental and lumber tree in North America for over a century. This species of tree is well on its way to being considered "naturalized" in North America, which means it's a non-native species but it has been here long enough that a separate genetic pool exists in the North American population, the tree population is well established, is replacing itself through generations, and does not out-compete other native species for resources. These aren't the "rules" for determining if a species has been naturalized or not, but they can be considered general guidelines.

Linden trees, while very popular ornamental species due to their multi-coloured foliage during the spring, actually were more popular in Europe to grow as a medicinal tree than a purely ornamental tree. The lime green "leaves" that the flowers are attached to are called bracts, and act as protection to the flower during early development. The flowers themselves are picked and steeped in hot water to make a medicinal tea which people in many European and South American countries claim to have anti-inflammatory benefits and is used to treat colds, flu, sore throat, bronchitis and fever. Argentinians recently have taken this to a whole new level, infusing fermenting grape juice with Tilia flowers during the winemaking process to give the wine a flowery, light taste. I doubt the wine has any medicinal qualities to it, but it sure is good! The Tilia Torrontes is by far the best wine I've ever had. If you're interesting in trying a new wine (they also have a Tilia Merlot, Chardonnay, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bonarda, and various combinations of the above), you can find the TILIA Wines website HERE.

The littleleaf linden is the national tree of Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic, of huge cultural importance in Sarajevo (the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina), a protected species in Ukraine and the all countries that are part of the former Yugoslavia, and considered a species at risk in Great Britain (it is considered an indicator species of an ancient woodland, which are becoming more and more rare in Britain with forest clearcutting to make way for agriculture and urban expansion).