Common name: Gorse, prickly broom, furze, whin.
Botanical name: Ulex europaeus
Family: Fabaceae (Pea)
Worldwide distribution: Native to parts of western Europe and northwest Africa.
Local distribution: Found widespread in Britain and Ireland.
Habitat: Coastal, heathlands, wasteland and forest edges.
Foraging season: Bloom all year round.
There is an old saying “when gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of fashion”, as it seems the plant is thought to be always in bloom. No matter whether it is a hot summer or a frozen winter, there is always a bush in bloom.
The genus Ulex comprises about 20 species, but only 3 can be found in the UK and Ireland: common gorse (Ulex europaeus), western gorse (Ulex gallii) and dwarf gorse (Ulex minor). All of them have edible flowers and are very similar in taste.
The bright yellow blossoms of gorse are one of the few flowers available in the winter menu. The mild coconut scent infuses well in liquids and the flowers are ideal for use in baking for decoration purposes.
Do not over eat the flowers, as the plant contains slightly toxic alkaloids. The long pods and dark seeds are not edible, either raw or cooked.