A guide to edible flowers from the wild and garden

By Sarah Watson, forager

A list of over 50 edible flowers – just some of those you can find in gardens, urban places and the countryside in the UK and beyond. I’ll be adding additional info and some ideas for using them. Tasting notes are for flowers in the their raw state. For flower foraging tips and cautions, be sure to read my ‘Edible flower power‘ article.

As always, be 100% sure of your identification before eating and do research what you intend to eat – if in doubt, leave it out. Get wild food and drink tips and updates on my course dates on Facebook, or sign up for my e-newsletter (option to unsubscribe at any time).

Apple blossom

Latin name: Malus species.
Plant family: Rose – Rosaceae.
Plant notes: Apple blossom is a source of nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies and other insects, and bullfinches eat the buds. Birds, badgers, foxes, mice, voles and butterflies feed on fallen fruit.
Tasting notes: Rather bitter.
Uses: Decoration; infuse in honey; use to flavour jellies, cream and ice cream; dry for tea.
Caution: Flowers contain small amounts of cyanogenic compounds and should not be consumed in large quantities, especially raw.

Bellflower (Campanula)

Latin name: Campanula species
Plant notes: Campanulaceae – bellflower
Tasting notes:
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution:

Blackthorn (sloe blossom)

Latin name: Prunus spinosa
Plant family: Rosaceae – Rose
Plant notes: Native to the UK. Great for many species of wildlife, especially butterflies, moths and other insects.
Tasting notes: Bitter almond.
Uses: Decorative and good for flavouring sweet dishes and making syrup.
Flowering time: Early spring.
Caution: Flowers contain cyanogenic compounds and should not be consumed in large quantities, especially raw.

Borage

Latin name: Borago officinalis
Plant family: Boraginaceae – Borage
Plant notes:
Tasting notes: Cucumber flavour.
Uses: Decorative, and in Pimms, fruit cups and cocktails – acidity changes petal colour from blue to pink. Good for sweet or savoury dishes and salads.
Flowering time: Spring to autumn.
Caution:

Carnation (see Pinks)

Chamomile (German) or scented mayweed

Latin name: Matricaria chamomilla
Plant family: Asteraceae – Daisy
Plant notes:
Tasting notes: Fruity and floral with vanilla notes.
Uses: Decorative and good for flavouring sweet dishes and making syrup. Dries well and is used to make tea as well as in baking.
Flowering time: Summer and autumn.
Caution: Can cause allergy symptoms, especially in those with ragweed/daisy allergies. Contains coumarin so avoid potential drug interactions, e.g. with blood thinners.

Cherry blossom

Latin name: Prunus species
Plant family: Rosaceae – Rose
Plant notes:
Tasting notes:
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution: Flowers contain small amounts of cyanogenic compounds and should not be consumed in large quantities, especially raw.

Chive blossom

Latin name: Allium schoenoprasum
Plant family: Amaryllis family – Amaryllidaceae
Plant notes:
Tasting notes: Like sweet chives.
Uses: Decorative and flavouring for savoury dishes, use to flavour vinegar and pickle whole flowerheads.
Flowering time:
Caution:

Cornflower

Latin name: Centaurea cyanus
Plant family: Asteraceae – Daisy
Plant notes:
Tasting notes:
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution:

Daisy (common)

Latin name: Bellis perennis
Plant family: Asteraceae – Daisy
Plant notes: Native to the UK.
Tasting notes: Mild, slightly soapy and drying in the mouth.
Uses: Decorative and good for sweet and savoury dishes.
Flowering time: Spring, summer
Caution:

Dandelion

Latin name: Taraxacum officinale
Plant family: Asteraceae – Daisy
Plant notes: Native to the UK.
Tasting notes: Slightly sweet and lettuce like with the bitter green parts removed.
Uses: Decorative and good for sweet and savoury dishes.
Flowering time: Spring, summer.
Caution: Watch out for seed ‘fluff’ as flowers get older – noone wants a mouthful of fluff!

Darwin’s barberry

Latin name: Berberis darwinii
Plant family: Berberidaceae – barberry
Plant notes: Often planted as an ornamental hedge.
Tasting notes: Tangy, lemony and a little bitter.
Uses: Decorative and good for sweet and savoury dishes, drinks and cocktails. Blend with sugar.
Flowering time: Early spring.
Caution: Contains berberine.

Elderflower

Latin name: Sambucus nigra
Plant family: Adoxaceae – Elder
Plant notes:
Tasting notes: Floral, honey, citrus, vanilla.
Uses:
Flowering time: Early to mid-summer.
Caution:

Fennel

Latin name: Foeniculum vulgare
Plant family: Carrot  – Apiaceae

Plant notes:
Tasting notes: Spicy, honeyed and anise-like.
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution: plant sap is mildly phototoxic so can cause a skin reaction in the sun.

Flowering currant

Latin name: Ribes sanguineum
Plant family: Grossulariaceae – gooseberry
Plant notes:
Tasting notes: Herbal – a little like thyme with floral notes.
Uses:
Flowering time: Early spring.
Caution:

Flowering (Japanese) quince

Latin name: Chaenomeles species
Plant family: Rosaceae – Rose
Plant notes:
Tasting notes: Quite bitter.
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution: Flower may contain small amounts of cyanogenic compounds and should not be consumed in large quantities, especially raw.

Forget-me-not



Latin name: Myosotis sylvatica
Plant family: Boraginaceae – Borage
Plant notes:
Tasting notes: mild cucumber flavour.
Uses: Decorative, in drinks, cocktails and flower ice cubes. Good for sweet or savoury dishes.
Flowering time: Late spring, early summer
Caution:

Fuschia

Latin name: Fuchsia species
Plant family: Onagraceae – willowherb
Plant notes:
Tasting notes: Crunchy, lettuce-like and with varying degrees of bitterness.
Uses: Decorative.
Flowering time:
Caution:

Garlic mustard
Latin name: Alliaria petiolata
Plant family: Cabbage – Brassicaceae
Plant notes:
Tasting notes:
Uses:
Flowering time: Spring
Caution:

Gorse
Latin name: Ulex europaeus
Plant family: Pea – Fabaceae
Plant notes:
Tasting notes: Slightly oily and pea-like. The coconut flavour is brought out with the addition of sugar.
Uses: Decorative.
Flowering time: Mainly October to May.
Caution:

Green alkanet
Latin name: Pentaglottis sempervirens
Plant family: Boraginaceae – Borage
Plant notes:
Tasting notes: Mildly cucumbery.
Uses: Decorative, and in Pimms and fruit cups. Good for sweet or savouriy dishes – acidity changes petal colour.
from blue to pink.
Caution:

Ground ivy
Latin name: Glechoma hederacea
Plant family: Lamiaceae – Mint
Plant notes:
Tasting notes:
Uses:
Caution:

Hawthorn

Latin name: Crataegeus monogyna
Plant family: Rose – Rosaceae
Plant notes:
Tasting notes:
Uses:
Flowering time: April, May
Caution:

Herb Robert


Latin name: Geranium robertianum
Plant family: Geraniaceae – Geranium
Plant notes:
Tasting notes: Herbal and quite earthy.
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution:

Honesty


Latin name: Lunaria annua
Plant family: Brassicaceae – Cabbage
Plant notes:
Tasting notes: Hot with a wasabi kick.
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution:

Honeysuckle

Latin name: Lonicera periclymenum
Plant family: Caprifoliaceae or honeysuckle
Plant notes:
Tasting notes:
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution:

Lavender (English)

Latin name: Lavandula angustifolia
Plant family: Lamiaceae – Mint
Plant notes:
Tasting notes
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution:

Lilac

Latin name: Syringa vulgaris
Plant family: Oleaceae – Olive
Plant notes:
Tasting notes:
Uses:
Flowering time: April, May
Caution:

Lime (linden)
Latin name: Tilia species
Plant family: Malvaceae – mallow
Plant notes:
Tasting notes:
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution:

Magnolia

Latin name: Magnolia species
Plant family: Magnoliaceae – Magnolia
Plant notes:
Tasting notes: Crunchy, spicy and gingery with a chicory bitterness.
Uses:
Flowering time: Early spring
Caution:

Common mallow
Latin name: Malva sylvestris
Plant family: Malvaceae – mallow
Plant notes:
Tasting notes:
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution:

Marigold
Latin name: Tagetes species.
Plant family: Asteraceae – Daisy
Plant notes:
Tasting notes:
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution:

Meadowsweet
Latin name: Filipendula ulmaria
Plant family: Rosaceae – Rose
Plant notes:
Tasting notes:
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution: Contains coumarin so avoid potential drug interactions, e.g. with blood thinners.

Nasturtium

Latin name: Tropaeolum majus
Plant family: Cabbage – Brassicaceae
Plant notes:
Tasting notes: Floral and peppery.
Uses: Salad, pickle the buds like capers.
Flowering time:
Caution:

Oxalis
Latin name: Oxalis species
Plant family:
Plant notes:
Tasting notes:
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution:

Pansy

Latin name: Viola
Plant family:
Plant notes:
Tasting notes:
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution:

Pineappleweed

Latin name: Matricaria discoidea
Plant family: Daisy – Asteraceae
Plant notes: An introduced, naturalised and widespread plant.
Tasting notes: Aromatic, bitter pineapple.
Uses: Herbal tea, syrup, fruity baking and dessert flavouring and booze infusion.
Flowering time: Spring to autumn,

Pinks (and carnations)

Latin name: Dianthus species
Plant family: Pinks – Caryophyllaceae
Plant notes: Many thousands of garden cultivars have been bred.
Tasting notes: Slightly spicy with a hint of clove.
Uses: Decoration, salads, infuse in wine and flavour desserts.
Flowering time: Spring and summer.
Caution:

Pot marigold

Latin name: Calendula officinalis
Plant family:
Plant notes:
Tasting notes: Herbal.
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution:

Primrose

Latin name: Primula vulgaris
Plant family: Primulaceae – Primula
Plant notes:
Tasting notes:
Uses:
Flowering time: Early spring
Caution:

Rosemary
Latin name: Salvia rosemarinus
Plant family:
Plant notes: Delicate rosemary flavour.
Tasting notes:
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution:

Red clover
Latin name: Trifolium pratense
Plant family: Pea – Fababaceae
Plant notes: Sweet, delicate pea flavour.
Tasting notes:
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution: Contains coumarin.

Rose

Latin name: Rosa species
Plant family: Rose – Rosaceae
Plant notes:
Tasting notes:
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution:

Rosebay willowherb

Latin name: Chamerion angustifolium
Plant family: Onagraceae – willowherbs
Plant notes:
Tasting notes:
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution:

Rosy Garlic

Latin name: Allium roseum 
Plant family: Amaryllis family – Amaryllidaceae
Plant notes:
Tasting notes: Spring onion-flavoured.
Uses: Decorative or savoury flavouring.
Flowering time:
Caution:

Speedwell

Latin name: Veronica chamaedrys
Plant family: Plantaginaceae – plantain
Plant notes:
Tasting notes: Earthy, slightly bitter and insubstantial.
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution:

Stitchwort (greater and lesser)

Latin name: Stellaria holostea and Stellaria graminea
Plant family: Pinks – Caryophyllaceae
Plant notes:
Tasting notes: Like raw sweetcorn, insubstantial.
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution:

Three-cornered leek


Latin name: Allium triquetrum
Plant family: Amaryllis family – Amaryllidaceae
Plant notes: Invasive, non native plant.
Tasting notes: Mildly oniony.
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution:

Tulip

Latin name: Tulipa species.
Plant family: Liliaceae – Lily
Plant notes: Cultivated.
Tasting notes: Crunchy, slightly sweet and lettuce-like.
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution: Tulips can cause allergic reactions and the bulbs contain toxins. Only the petals are edible, and it’s recommended to remove the pistil and stamens from the centre of the blossom. 

Vetch (Common)

Latin name: Vicia sativa
Plant family: Pea – Fabaceae
Plant notes: The flowers attract many kinds of insects including bumblebees.
Tasting notes: Delicate pea flavour.
Uses: Decoration.
Flowering time: Spring to autumn
Caution: Seeds can be toxic when older or if eaten in large quantities.

Violet


Latin name: Viola species
Plant family: Violet – Violaceae
Plant notes:
Tasting notes:
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution:

White deadnettle
Latin name: Lamium album
Plant family: Mint – Lamiaceae
Plant notes:
Tasting notes: Herbal.
Uses:
Flowering time: Early spring to early winter.
Caution:

Wild garlic


Latin name: Allium ursinum
Plant family: Amaryllis family – Amaryllidaceae
Plant notes:
Tasting notes: Garlicky with a slight sweetness.
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution:

Wild mustard (charlock)
Latin name:
Plant family: Cabbage – Brassicaceae
Plant notes:
Tasting notes: Hot and mustardy.
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution:

Wintercress

Latin name: Barbarea vulgaris 
Plant family: Cabbage – Brassicaceae
Plant notes:
Tasting notes: hot and peppery with a bitter aftertaste, best with salty, oily foods like mackerel pate.
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution:

Wisteria
Latin name: Wisteria sinensis
Plant family: Fabaceae – Pea
Plant notes:
Tasting notes: Mild pea and floral flavours
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution:

Wood sorrel
Latin name: Oxalis ascetosella
Plant family: Wood-sorrel – Oxalidaceae
Plant notes:
Tasting notes:
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution:

Yarrow
Latin name: Achillea millefolium
Plant family: Asteraceae – Daisy
Plant notes:
Tasting notes:
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution:

Yellow archangel

Latin name: Lamium galeobdolon
Plant family: Mint – Lamiaceae
Plant notes:
Tasting notes: Herbal.
Uses:
Flowering time:
Caution:


Discover more about identifying and cooking with wild edible plants on a Wild Feast foraging & cookery course.

Happy foraging!

Elderflower cordial recipe

By Sarah Watson, forager, Wild Feast

© Recipe, blog words and images copyright Wild Feast, all rights reserved

Making your own elderflower cordial is simple and inexpensive, I add lime for extra zing. This cordial can be diluted as a drink, used in cocktails, as a drizzle, or an ingredient for desserts, sorbets and

ice lollies. The citric acid is optional if you’re using your cordial straight away – it extends the life of the
cordial by making it more acidic which helps prevent bacteria growing, and also adds tartness to the
flavour. You can get it from some chemists, home brew shops or online (choose a reputable
company).

Pick your elderflowers on a dry day (the pollen is important for flavour), and leave some flowers to
form fruit for wildlife later, as well as for elderberry recipes. Avoid any blossoms turning brown, and
pick those with the nicest scent. Choose blossoms that look clean, away from busy roads, or anywhere that may have been treated with chemicals.

Makes between 1.5 and 2 litres of cordial

Ingredients

  • 20-30 elderflower heads (unwashed)
  • 1.5 litres water
  • 1 kg sugar
  • 2 lemons, juice and zest
  • 1 lime (or another lemon if you prefer), juice and zest
  • 2 heaped teaspoons food grade citric acid (optional
    – you can add the juice of another lemon or lime for extra tartness instead, if you like )

Method

Shake the elderflowers gently to remove any insects. Use a fork or your fingers to remove the florets
(tiny flowers) from their stems into a large pyrex or ceramic dish (with a lid). Add the citrus zest to the
flowers.

Boil the water and pour it over the elderflowers and zest, cover with a lid and leave to infuse
overnight. Once cooled, it can be left in the fridge like this for up to two days.

Strain the citrus juice through a sieve, lined with a scalded jelly bag or muslin, into a saucepan. Then
strain the elderflower infusion. Add sugar and citric acid to the pan. Bring gradually to a simmer,
stirring to dissolve the sugar. Let it boil gently for a couple of minutes, then skim off any foam.

Funnel the cordial while still hot into warm, sterilised glass bottles, and seal. Alternatively let the
cordial cool, then pour into sterilised bottles leaving some room (at least 10%) in the bottle for
expansion, and freeze.

Once opened, store in the fridge and use within a couple of weeks, or several months if citric acid was
used. Dilute at around one part cordial to five parts water – fizzy or still – or try it mixed with sparkling
wine or cocktails.

Rose petal syrup recipe

By Sarah Watson, Forager, Wild Feast

All rose petals are edible, but when collecting rose petals for syrup, choose a fragrant rose variety that hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals. Japanese rose  (Rosa rugosa) is ideal as it’s naturalised in the wild but is a non-native, robust shrub that can be quite invasive.

Pick flowers that have recently opened and look fresh and clean. Take only the petals –
leaving the rest of the flower means rosehips may still be produced later in the year. Laying the petals
on a tray outdoors for around half an hour should allow any lingering insects to escape.

Makes a small bottle of syrup

Ingredients

  • A handful of rose petals
  • 500g sugar
  • 400ml water
  • Half a lemon, zested and juiced

Method

Layer several handfuls of fresh rose petals with 500g of white, granulated sugar. Massage the rose
petals gently with the sugar until they start to soften and bruise. Cover and leave for two to four days.

Add the sugar and petals to a pan with 400ml water and the lemon zest. Gently heat the liquid, stirring gently until the sugar dissolves. Strain through a fine sieve (you could dry the leftover sugary petals to use later), bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes or so, until the syrup thickens a little. Then just before taking the pan off the heat, add the strained juice of half a lemon and stir.

Funnel into a sterilised bottle and seal. Once opened, store in the fridge and use within a couple of weeks.

Edible flower power

By Sarah Watson, forager

© Blog words and images copyright Wild Feast, all rights reserved

Flowers beautify our homes and surroundings. Lilac and English lavender are much-loved garden stalwarts. Cheery dandelions and daisies brighten lawns. Colourful tulips and marigolds enliven flowerbeds, and primroses and violets grace the hedgerows. These floral treasures aren’t just a feast for the eyes, they can all be eaten…

Edible blooms have long been used; the Ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Romans added them to food and drink. In today’s fashionable restaurant dishes and stylish social media posts, flowers look vibrant and elegant. But many blossoms in our gardens, urban places and countryside can be used in everyday food – for free!

English lavender in flower

As well as giving colour and charm to our food, edible blooms can add crispness and taste, ranging from sweet and floral to savoury and spicy. Flowers are being turned to anew for the flavours they can bring to food and drink, sometimes as a way to help cut our sugar and alcohol intake.

And flowers really do have power! They’re sources of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre, and can be rich in antioxidants that may help protect our bodies from disease. The age-old practice of using flowers as medicine is much in use by herbalists today.

Pavlova with forget-me-not, speedwell, bugle, primrose, rosemary, green alkanet and red clover flowers

Modern research suggests some flowers may be useful to treat physical or mental illnesses. Even looking at them helps us feel better: A study showed patients in hospital rooms with flowers needed less pain medication and felt more positive than patients in rooms without.

So feed yourself with nutritious flowers! Create stunning salads with borage, daisies, honesty and dandelion petals. Pickle chive blossoms or wild garlic buds, and infuse vinegar with red clover or elderflowers.

Salad with flowers of garlic mustard, yellow archangel, wild garlic, wintercress and ground ivy

Perfect for decorating cakes and desserts are daisies, violets, forget-me-nots, primroses and cornflower petals. Make syrups and cordials from honeysuckle, rose, elderflower, hawthorn and cherry blossom. Mince flowers into sugar, butter, buttercream icing, whipped cream or soft cheese – try rose petals or rosemary, and in savoury dishes, nasturtiums or chives.

Dry marigold petals, English lavender, chamomile or fennel flowers to use in teas, or as a baking ingredient or spice. Stuff courgette blossoms with cream cheese. Dip wild garlic flower-heads and ox eye daisies in tempura batter and fry for a crispy, delicious treat.

Fennel flowers

As nutritional information on edible flowers is limited, it’s best just to eat them in moderation. Not all are edible; some, like foxgloves and lily of the valley, are seriously poisonous. Others may have toxic stems, leaves or bulbs – like tulips, where it’s best just to eat the petals and remove the other flower parts. Check with a good foraging book or expert website.

Flower foraging tips:

  • They’re essential food for bees, butterflies and other insects, so leave plenty behind. Here’s a useful link from the Royal Horticultural Society for insect-friendly flowers to plant if you have a garden
  • Avoid any which may have been treated with chemicals (or come into contact with untreated manure) like those grown for bouquets and gardens.
  • Avoid harvesting from busy roadsides where they can absorb poisonous heavy metals or places domestic animals have been.
  • For those who have a health condition, or are pregnant or breastfeeding, check which flower types are suitable.
  • Be aware they can trigger allergic reactions, especially for those with hayfever, asthma or severe allergies.

Find out more about using the floral gems in gardens, towns and the country in my edible blooms list.


As always, be 100% sure of your identification before eating and do research what you intend to eat – if in doubt, leave it out.

Discover more about identifying and cooking with wild edible plants on a Wild Feast foraging & cookery course.  Get wild food and drink tips and updates on course dates on Facebook, or sign up for my e-newsletter (option to unsubscribe at any time).

Happy foraging!

Heady honeysuckle

By Sarah Watson

 

With its intoxicating scent, curvy Art Nouveau-style blooms and understated pastel yellow and blush-pink hues, common honeysuckle is surely the most elegant wild flower. Even its name, Lonicera, sounds like a siren of the silver screen.

There are over 180 species of honeysuckle, some of which may be toxic to varying degrees. The flowers of a few species are considered edible, including UK native common honeysuckle, or woodbine (Lonicera periclymenum). In summer, wild honeysuckle can be found flowering in woodland, scrubland, hedgerows and along roadsides. There are showy, garden varieties of it too – as pictured above. It’s a twining shrub with opposite pairs of untoothed, pointed leaves and stalkless, trumpet-shaped flowers arranged in whorls which are followed by clusters of red berries.

Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) introduced from eastern Asia and naturalised in parts of Southern Britain, also has edible flowers. Its trumpets, in shades of creamy-white and yellow, are borne in pairs (pictured below) and followed by small, spherical black berries. It’s quite invasive in the wild in the UK and can be harmful to native plants, so you don’t need to worry about taking too much.

It takes just a small quantity of the deliciously-fragranced blossoms to capture their honeyed, floral flavour. Honeysuckle-infused water can be used to make refreshing sorbets, cordials or conserves. A jelly goes nicely with some thick slices of ham, or in a summer cream tea with some fresh raspberries or strawberries.

Use my honeysuckle syrup recipe below to make a vinaigrette, jelly, or for a refreshing drink, add chilled fizzy water and a splash of citrus juice, or even yuzu. Honeysuckle syrup goes well with tequila or brandy in cocktails. Or try ‘Suck my Honey’ – my gin and honeysuckle cocktail recipe with lime and orange blossom water – find it on the Difford’s Guide website in my article on using honeysuckle in drinks.

The berries of most honeysuckle species are said to be mildly poisonous, as are the leaves. Pictured below are the berries of common honeysuckle.

Honeysuckle_berries,_Swindon_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1443368

Photo by: Brian Robert Marshall, licenced under CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Harvest native honeysuckle lightly from several places, taking a little from each patch and leaving some flowers for the bees and moths which feed on its nectar. Take individual, freshly-opened trumpets, leaving unopened flowers to bloom, and leaving the stalk and flower base behind for berries to form, as birds and other wildlife feed on them.

Honeysuckle syrup recipe

Makes one bottle – about 700ml

Ingredients:

  • Large handful of fresh honeysuckle trumpets – all green bits removed
  • 500ml hot water – recently boiled
  • 500g sugar
  • Juice of half a lemon

Method:

Soak your honeysuckle flowers in enough water to cover them. Leave overnight at room temperature to cool, then pop in the fridge to infuse for another day or so.

Strain through a sieve lined with muslin (or kitchen paper) into a measuring jug.

Add equal quantities of sugar (in grams) to liquid (in millilitres), along with the juice of half a lemon for each 500ml.

Put into a saucepan and bring to the boil slowly, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer gently for 4 minutes.

Funnel into a sterilised glass bottle and seal. Keep in the fridge once open,and use within a month. Or let the syrup cool and transfer to a sterilised plastic bottle for freezing – leave some headspace to allow for expansion.


Always use good plant identification books to identify your finds to 100% certainty before eating them.

Discover  more about identifying and cooking with wild herbs and flowers on a Wild Feast foraging & cookery course.  Get more wild food tips and updates on courses on Facebook and sign up for my e-newsletter for wild food recipes direct to your inbox (option to unsubscribe at any time).

Golden gorse to lift the spirits

By Sarah Watson

gorsePhoto: Gorse in East Sussex by Ian Cunliffe, licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence, via Wikimedia Commons.

Gorse has been bringing striking golden-yellow brightness to the landscape since early January. Native common gorse (Ulex europaeus) is widespread on Sussex heaths, roadsides, railways and fields, flowering mainly from January to June. It’s a large, evergreen shrub covered in sharp, needle-like leaves with yellow coconut-perfumed flowers, the scent being more noticeable on sunny days.

Gorse_flower._(8476622380)Photo: Gorse flower by Ian Kirk, licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence,
via Wikimedia Commons.

The flowers of this pea family shrub are edible and impart a distinctive coconutty, floral-vanilla flavour to infusions. The petals can be used as a decorative salad garnish, scattered over cakes, or infused in boiling water to make a tea. Or try crystallising petals with beaten egg white and fine sugar and spreading them out to dry in a warm place (this intensifies the coconut flavour), then sprinkling over ice cream. Ideally a gorse ice cream, made by heating the cream or milk of your recipe with a handful of gorse flowers, then cooling and leaving it overnight in the fridge before straining and using it to make the ice cream.

Coconut_lime_cake-gorse2-adj-resizeAbove: my coconut and lime cake with gorse flower rum frosting, topped with fresh gorse petals.

Gorse flowers are also used in the new breed of artisan British gins such as The Botanist, in winemaking, and to flavour whisky and beer. Try John Wright’s River Cottage Handbook recipe for gorse flower white rum, or infuse a handful in vodka for just a couple of days, before straining and adding sugar to taste. I also make a sunny yellow syrup with lime and orange, which is just gently floral flavoured with a slight hint of coconut and can be used in cocktails or as a drizzle.

The flowers provide pollen for insects, especially on warmer winter days. Luckily picking too many is difficult as the bush is well-protected by sharp spines, so gathering them needs to be a slow, careful process – gloves are recommended, although I find it easier to get a feel for picking the blossoms without them, but caution is needed! Take care not to confuse gorse with the poisonous laburnum tree, which is also in the pea family and has bright yellow flowers, however unlike gorse, the flowers hang down in clusters and the leaves are not sharp and needle-like.

Discover  more about identifying and cooking with wild herbs and flowers on a Wild Feast forage, cook and eat course> book here.  Get more wild food tips and updates on courses on Facebook and sign up for my e-newsletter for wild food recipes direct to your inbox (option to unsubscribe at any time).

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