Walking past Scotscraig Golf Course in Tayport, Kathleen and I spotted a father and daughter plucking gorse flowers. Kathleen (being more inquisitive than me) started chatting with them and found that they were going to give gorse flower cordial a try. I had no idea that gorse blooms were edible, so after further research I found that they can be used in a variety of ways: cordials, gin, jam, and scones. However, I was attracted to a recipe for gorse flower ice cream on the website of Lochaber Farm, by St. Andrews.
Please note that it is only gorse flowers that are edible (not the needles) and only in small quantities as they contain small amounts of toxic alkaloids.
Gorse (or whin) is a very common prickly shrub in the Scottish landscape (not to be confused with broom, which has yellow flowers but not spiny leaves). Its golden blooms cheer up the countryside around Tayport especially in April and May. An added attraction when you look for it, is that it is often home to yellowhammers, beautiful small birds with yellow heads.
When the sun shines, gorse gives off a strong sweet fragrance of coconut. To the Celts, gorse was a sign of encouragement and promise of good things to come….so very fitting for these times. Bakers were said to prefer gorse for their ovens because the wood is dry and burns consistently hot.
You can find the gorse flower ice cream recipe I followed here. You can serve it with stewed rhubarb, and decorate with the left over flowers.
So, what was the verdict on this experiment? It was easy to locate the gorse and pick the flowers, if you do this carefully and avoid touching the prickly stems. The texture of the ice cream is good and the golden colour is sensational. Not sure about the taste though: Kathleen loved it, saying she tasted vanilla. For me, all I could taste was cream and dead flower petals. Would I make it again? Possibly, but next time I would add some vanilla essence and perhaps desiccated coconut to improve the taste. And as for the 6 egg whites left over from using 6 egg yolks…meringues…but that is another recipe!