Gorse, of Course

by Green Deane

in Alcohol, Beverage, Edible Raw, Flowers, Miscellaneous, Plants, Recipes, Salad, Trees/Shrubs

Gorse flowers and thorns

 Ulex europaeus: Edible Gorse or Furze Pas

Gorse has edible flowers. It also has thorns… Really bad thorns.

In August 2005 an Englishman, Dean Bowen, 32, left to walk home after many drinks at the local pub. He woke up the next day in the middle of a Gorse patch.  Bowen couldn’t remember how he got there, and couldn’t find a way out of the thorny mess.

On his second day stranded in the patch he caught the attention of a passerby by using a cigarette lighter. That brought the rescue squad but they couldn’t get to him. He was surrounded, as they say, in a thorny situation. Bowen was eventually rescued by the British Royal Air Force who lifted him out by helicopter.

“I wouldn’t advise anybody to go into it [gorse bushes], you know what I mean? At first it seems fun but, before you know it, you’re like stuck,” Bowen, from Hunmanby, North Yorkshire, told the BBC after his rescue. “Whichever way I turned it seemed to be the wrong one that day.”

Bowen spent some time in the local hospital recovering from mild hypothermia and dehydration. Colin Yorke, who winched him to safety, said: “The man was in a patch of gorse brush 10-feet deep.

“We’ve no idea how he got there. He was right in the middle of the gorse. It was like he had been dropped there by a spaceship… It was certainly one of our stranger rescues.”

Gorse blossoms can make tea or wine

There is a saying: “When Gorse is out of bloom kissing is out of season.” That’s understandable since it is an evergreen that blooms year round. A spray of Gorse used to be put in bridal bouquet as an allusion to this. Pliny said Gorse was used in the collection of gold. The plant was put on stream beds to catch any gold-dust brought down by the current. It’s also been used for fuel in bakers’ ovens and in soap-making, as it contains much alkali. If the spines are crushed it is acceptable animal fodder.

Gorse is common in western Europe and has been naturalized in Coastal Australia, New Zealand, South America and North America. In North America it is found along the Mid-Atlantic states, the west coast from California north into Canada, and Hawaii. It can also be found inland.

The only edible part are the flowers which have a slight coconut aroma and almond  taste.  They’ve been used in salads, for tea and to make a non-grape wine — recipe below. The buds can be pickled like capers.  Don’t over eat. The plant contains slightly toxic alkaloids. Soaked seeds are a flea-repellant.

Botanically known as Ulex europaeus (YEW-lex yew-row-PEE-us) Gorse is also called Furze. Ulex is Latin for some unknown ancient plant and Europaeus is of Europe. The word gorse comes from the Anglo -Saxon word gorst, which is a descendant of a German word meaning barley, which makes no sense at all. The word furze comes from the Anglo-Saxon word fyrs, which means ‘a waste’ suggesting where it grows or the litter that accumulates around it, creating a fire hazard.  Gorse is on many noxious weed lists and is myrmecochoric meaning its seeds are distributed by ants.

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

IDENTIFICATION: Evergreen shrub to six feet, sometimes 10,  forming dense and impenetrable thickets, young stems green, leaves modified into green spines, 0.4-1.4 in long, young seedlings have trifoliate leaves resembling a small clover leaf. Flowers are golden yellow, 0.4-0.8 in) long, with egg-shaped bracts and has a typical pea-flower structure. NON-EDIBLE:  pod, long and dark, purplish brown, 2-3 small blackish seeds.

TIME OF YEAR: Year round if the climate agrees, heavily in spring.

ENVIRONMENT: Non-arid areas neither too hot or too cold, coasts, disturbed ground, grasslands, shrub lands, forest edges, waste places  also as a hedge and in landscaping. Can grow in some shade. Makes soil poorer.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Flowers as a trail-side nibble, or use to make tea or wine. Buds can be pickled. Do not consume a lot. Flowers have been used as a dye for Easter eggs. Flowers and roots provide a yellow dye for clothes.

Gorse Wine Recipe

* 12 cups of gorse flowers

* 1 gallon of water

* 4 cups of sugar (can substitute with honey, 3.3 pounds)

* 1 1/2 cups seedless white raisins

* 2 oranges

* 2 lemons (or 1/4 oz. citric acid)

* 2/3 cup strong tea or 8 drops grape tannin

* 2 heaping teaspoons all-purpose wine yeast

* 1 teaspoon yeast nutrient

(Optional, two ounces of ginger root)

Put the flowers into the fermenting bucket immediately. Boil half the water, half the sugar and the chopped raisins together for 1 to 2 minutes, then pour over flowers. Thinly peel the rind from the oranges and the lemons, and add to the bucket. Squeeze out the juice and add that too. Add the cold tea or the tannin and stir thoroughly. Make up to 1 gallon with cold water. When tepid add yeast and yeast nutrient, stir well and cover. Ferment for 1 week, stirring daily. After 2 or 3 days, when fermenting well, add the remaining sugar and stir to dissolve. Strain through a sieve or cloth and siphon into a gallon jug or bottle. Fill up to the neck or the jug with cool, boiled water. Rack when clear, bottle and keep for six months.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Grace January 5, 2017 at 14:33

Does anyone know where I can buy some Gorse?

Reply

lee April 10, 2017 at 15:27

I buy it on e bay ,cheaper around November December…they settle very quick and outperform in clay soil.

Reply

Rani October 3, 2016 at 22:36

Does anyone know the nutritional properties of the gorse flowers? Like vitamins, minerals, protein content etc

Reply

Senn March 13, 2016 at 05:55

Hi
I know gorse wood chips are using in UK for smoking (smoked fish and game meat) Does anyone has any academic article published in UK on a research study on gorse wood chips?

Many Thanks,
Senn

Reply

Carl Peltoniemi December 3, 2015 at 17:22

Does anyone know what the lowest temperature is that gorse will tolerate? Minnesota gets some lows at -28 C or so, although that is rare. Extended periods of -17C are not uncommon.

Reply

Daisy Williamson May 1, 2014 at 17:09

Thanks you for this info, we have become gorse enthusiasts in Rhynie, Scotland, and I have been making a butter cream from the abundant gorse flowers, by melting the gorse flowers in the butter, straining, and then whipping up with the usual icing sugar, vanilla paste, and gorse seems to like a twist of lime! We’ve also been making a gorse cordial for our Rhynie Woman events, with gorse, coconut and lime, with a bit of ginger, delish!

Reply

Anna Graham December 24, 2013 at 15:15

Thank you very much for your blog. Please can you tell me how the Gorse came to Canada?Also, do you know if it has any cultural uses?
Thanks, Anna Graham

Reply

M Robertson May 11, 2013 at 09:28

I’ve come across many literary references (e.g. Crawford “Creating a forest garden”) to gorse as a nitrogen-fixing plant, which is a very beneficial in increasing nitrogen content in the soil and potentially providing nitrogen to other nearby plants via mycorrhizal fungi networks. I would recommend including this info in this (rather excellent) gorse webpage as it can make this spiny beast of a weed a slightly more tolerable bush to have on the land. Also chopping down gorse branches and laying them around the base of a young (fruit) tree has been used to provide slow-release nitrogen as it slowly decomposes, and also deters deer/cattle etc from grazing on the young tree (ref. Mollison “Permaculture a designers’ manual). Thanks for a super site, I love learning all this stuff. Cheers, Margaret

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