Gorse flower cordial
Published: 29th Feb 2020
"When gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of season". What a lovely expression. Thankfully, gorse is in boom pretty much all year round and at some times of the year they seem to be the only offering of sunshine.
Their bright yellow flowers, usually seen from afar on roadsides, at the edges of forests and on barren land appear as tiny yellow dots on a backdrop of green. In fact they're so prevalent I think we often don't pay them much attention at all. However, if you look at them up close they resemble tiny pea flowers and that's no conincidence. The common gorse (or Ulex europaeus) belongs to the pea family, although the rest of the plant doesn't at all look like the soft, trailing pea plants we grow in our gardens and allotments. Eaten fresh the pea flavour is there in the petals but the scent is unmistakably and pleasingly coconut.
The gorse bush is a spikey character, with super sharp leaves like needles that are guaranteed to scratch you no matter how carefully you pluck the flowers. I picked these on a windy day where the plant's stems were violently waving around and so it felt a little like an endurance challenge to keep going until I had picked enough. By the end of it my thumb was both numb and burning at the same time.
As always when foraging flowers or foliage from the wild, be aware of what's OK to pick and not pick. Some plants may be endangered or the only food source for certain creatures. Never take all of the flowers, share the bounty with the wildlife that needs it. Make sure they're clean and not contaminated by road dirt, animal urine or pesticides. Take a look at my guide on things to watch out for when using edible flowers.
I read somewhere that it is at this time of year that the gorse scent and flavour is coming in to its best, which prompted me to make the cordial sooner rather than later. Other edible flowers will be in more abundance as the year goes on but for now there is gorse a-plenty.
I made around 300 ml of the cordial and it is very easy. I looked at a few cordial recipes online and most of them gave similar instructions and ingredients and so I followed those closely with this:
1 cup fresh, clean gorse flowers
400ml cold water
zest of one orange
juice of one lemon
Put the water and suger into a large saucepan and mix together. Boil for 10 minutes.
Place the gorse flowers, orange zest and lemon juice into a heatproof bowl, large enough to take the hot water from the pan.
After the water and sugar solution has boiled for 10 minutes, pour it over the gorse flowers, organge zest and lemon juice and leave to cool for at least 6 hours.
Once cooled, strain the liquid (I used muslin) into a sterilised bottle or airtight jar and keep your cordial in the fridge.
I have to admit that at first, on tasting the cordial neat I thought I had added too much citrus as that was the overriding flavour. However, when mixed with water the light gorse flower flavour shines through. I made some floral ice just because it reminds me of warmer days and to top off this lovely, refreshing drink.