I watched a food programme about foragers a while back and learned that a tree at the bottom of the garden is in fact a ‘lemonade tree’ i.e. you can make a sort of Indian lemonade from the cone like buds it has. In fact this tree is quite the foragers’ dream. I am not a forager but I like to be resourceful and it appeals to me that I have a tree within reach that could have something culinary to offer(there is also some spice that can be taken from the cones ) as well as just being quite a striking piece of foliage. This tree goes a stunning red in autumn and the golds, yellows and greens, as it turns, make me want to take pictures each year and I have to say to myself no, you have taken those pictures already last year!
Harvest the red cones in August when they are bright and full and before heavy rains that can wash out their color and flavor. Taste one drupe before picking to make sure that it is ripe, with a tangy, lemony flavor. A tablespoon or two of the drupes steeped in hot water, or left to sit in water outdoors on a sunny day, should yield one to two flavourful cups of “Indian lemonade.”
Be sure to filter the pink liquid through a tea strainer, cheesecloth or paper coffee filter before drinking to remove any fibers that naturally occur with the drupes. The cones store well in a paper shopping bag in a cool place for months and should yield good tea until springtime, when mints can be harvested from the herb garden for a different tea http://www.edibleeastend.com/departments/peconic-forager/the-lemonade-tree/#.