Gorse: Plant profile
Gorse, Common Gorse, European Gorse, Gorst, Prickly Broom, Furze, Whin, Aiteann Gallda
Fabaceae (Pea), Subfamily: Faboideae
Native to parts of western Europe and northwest Africa. Found widespread in Britain and Ireland.
Where to find Gorse
Coastal, heathlands, wasteland and forest edges.
When to find Gorse
The plants blooms all year round, though more readily in spring and early summer.
How to identify Gorse
Gorse is a dense perennial shrub covered in dark-green needles. The flowers are yellow, similar to those of Peas and might be present in the bush all year round. The seed pods are dark purple to blackish-brown and have white hairs covering them. These pods explode at some point, to disperse the seeds.
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.
Broom (Cytisus scoparius) flowers are quite similar but the plant lack the dense spines of Gorse.
All about Gorse
Gorse is one of the most common shrubs growing in the British Isles, someitmes creating impenetrable thickets.
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.
Medicinal properties of Gorse
Gorse has not been much used in herbal medicine, though it’s included in the Bach flower remedies
Culinary uses and recipes with Gorse
The bright yellow blossoms of gorse are one of the few flowers available in the winter menu.They have a very mild coconut and almond aroma but can taste a bit bitter.
The flower buds can be pickled in vinegar and used like capers
The flowers can be infused in liqueurs, only for a very short period of time, in order to avoid extreme bitterness. The flowers are ideal for use in baking and make good dish presentaton.
Safe foraging of Gorse
Do not over eat the flowers, as the plant may contain slightly toxic alkaloids.
The long pods and dark seeds are not edible, either raw or cooked. Do not consume.
Ecological importance of Gorse
Gorse provides a year-round food source for insect pollinators.
The plant is used as a pioneer species for establishing new woodland.