Gorse

Gorse in bloom (Ulex europaeus)
Gorse is one of the most common sights in the countryside. The golden yellow flowers bloom all year round, providing bright colour even in the depths of the winter. These flowers are edible, but difficult to reach due to the spiny leaves of the bush.

Table of Contents

Gorse: Plant profile

Common names

Gorse, Common Gorse, European Gorse, Gorst, Prickly Broom, Furze, Whin, Aiteann Gallda

Botanical name

Ulex europaeus

Plant family

Fabaceae (Pea), Subfamily: Faboideae

Distribution

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.

Gorse lookalikes

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.

Gorse in bloom (Ulex europaeus)

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.

Gorse gone to seed (Ulex europaeus)

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.

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Alvaro Docio

Alvaro Docio

I am the person behind British Local Food. As a forager and wild food educator, my aim is to inspire you to go outdoors, familiarise with your local plants and make the best of their culinary and medicinal properties, in the hope you'd pass on any knowledge gained down to the next generation.

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3 thoughts on “Gorse”

  1. Why do you say not to eat the gorse seeds? The furry, woody pods I can understand, but I wonder whether a handful of gorse seeds sprinkled over a salad might work. They don’t have an unpleasant taste eaten alone.

    Reply
    • Hello Bjorny,
      There are hardly any records about edibility of gorse seeds on the internet or books.
      The few references indicate that seeds may be toxic so I prefer to be on the safe side. But I am open to challenge.
      Is that something you have tried once? Have you eaten them frequently? Have you seen someone else do it? Or any reference that I can see?
      I am really interested to know. Thanks.
      Alvaro

      Reply
  2. I was always told, by my grandfather, born 1874, that ” I’ll pay of my debts when the gorse fails to bloom”. He never had a debt.

    Reply

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