Gorse Flower Cordial

by Ciaran Burke

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Gorse bushes can be seen all over the countryside, their florescent yellow bloom light the hillsides, a blaze of colour across the land. Unfortunately sometimes their blaze is literal, their oil rich wood all too quickly ignites in dry weather and fires of gorse burn fiercely every year. The truth is that gorse is often hated, it spreads like, well, wild fire, and land is quickly colonized by its spiny stems.

Ulex europeaus; gorse, furze or whin, growing on the road near our house

Ulex europeaus; gorse, furze or whin, growing on the road near our house

Even in our own garden, the one acre of land that we endeavour to tame and reclaim from the wild clutches of vegetation, we have a love and hate relationship with this shrub botanically called Ulex europeaus. When the blooms are out their sweet fragrance drifts through the air, along the roadsides as we take a morning walk the sweet coconut scents waft along the country lane. In early morning sunlight the blooms glow bright, it is beautiful, yet we cut it from the garden. There is an old Irish saying that says that the time for kissing is when the gorse is in blossom, Iuckily it is not just our spring walks that are enhanced by this terrible beauty, but at any time of the year you can find a gorse bush in flower.

Gorse shrub flowering by the stream that runs behind our garden

Gorse shrub flowering by the stream that runs behind our garden

These days a gorse covered field is seen as a waste land, but in times past the gorse, which is also called furze or whin, was seen as a sign of prosperous land. The old Irish saying “An t-ór fé’n aiteann, an t-airgead fé’n luachair agus an gorta fé’n bhfraoch”, says gold under gorse, silver under rushes and famine under heather. Around our garden are rushes, heather and gorse. Heather grows in the bog, rushes in wetter soil but gorse grows on the drier soil. In the past gorse hedges made great barriers for lives stock and walking sticks were made from the wood. But I am sure if you ask most people if there is any use for gorse they will say there is none.

On the way home with the harvest

On the way home with the harvest

Each morning as I smell its fragrance on the air if makes me hungry, it has a sweet foody smell, surely there is a use for gorse? After searching for a bit I found a recipe for gorse flowers, gorse cordial. With some enthusiasm my wife Hanna and I brought our wheel barrow for a short walk along the road and cut some flowering shoots, quite a few flowering shoots in fact, a whole wheel barrow full. We wore thick gloves and brought our loppers, they are incredibly spiney. We then brought them home and removed the flowers with a scissors. Below is the recipe that we used, it is quite delicious!

Ingredients

  • 1.5 litre of gorse flowers
  • 250g of fructose sugar (fruit sugar)
  • 900ml of water
  • Juice of one lemon
Squeezing lemon juice

Squeezing lemon juice

Method

  1. In a saucepan slowly add the sugar to the water and stir to dissolve. Boil for ten minutes with the lid on.
  2. Place the prepared flowers in a large bowl and pour the sugar and water over the flowers
  3. Add the lemon juice.
  4. Cover with a plate and leave to cool over night
  5. The next morning squeeze the flowers and water though muslin cloth.
  6. Bottle the cordial in sterilized bottles.

Serving

  • Dilute the cordial with still or sparkling water, about 1:10 (cordial:water or to taste). Refrigerate the cordial after opening.

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