I’ve spent far too much time in the office with paperwork lately so it was a joy to head off to Clare for a workshop at Irish Seed Savers (more of that to come soon). The plan was to take some images to go with the interview but the vibrancy of the gorse (Ulex europaeus) stopped me in my tracks.
Although it flowers for most of the year, this thorny, evergreen shrub really comes into its own during the springtime, carrying buketloads of vivid yellow flowers and a suggestion of blue skies and warmth in the air.
I haven’t always enjoyed this fascination with gorse. My childhood memories of it weren’t so admiring, having been far too close and personal with a straggly bush one misty morning. I was riding a skittish young colt that was spooked by goodness knows what (perhaps some otherworldly being hiding beneath the branches). The horse took fright, dumped me off into the middle of the prickly bush then bolted, leaving me to haul myself out, trying and failing to extract my tender, young limbs from the painful thorns without injury.
There are many tales surrounding gorse in folklore, giving it a slightly mystical air so I’m apt to forgive it those painful thoughts. This hardy bush, that tends to grow in poor growing conditions, is said to ward off mischief and negativity. Apparently, if we’re brave enough to cut out a few stems and make a sweeping brush with them, it will sweep any negative influences away as well as keep the sídhe from entering our homes. Likewise, if branches are stuffed into the chimney after the last spring fire has died out, gorse is supposed to stop any mischievous sídhe from entering homes from the chimney. One would hope householders remember to remove the gorse before they relight their fires, as it’s highly flammable!
There are several recipes incorporating gorse flowers in the world of food and wine. The pastry custard recipe that Zac Gallagher over on the Irish Food Guide shares sounds intriguing and it seems that gorse is prolific in New Zealand too, where Alessandra Zecchini writes about gorse cupcakes, a recipe that I’ll definitely be trying soon.
Mr G has promised to make lots of homemade wine or beer so this might be a test of his prowess – there’s a gorse wine recipe in our beer and winemaking book that he might attempt once the flowers are dry enough to pick.
Have you tried cooking with gorse flowers? Can you recommend a recipe?