Thursday, May 14, 2009

Gorse of course

Gorse (Ulex europaeus) and rainbow over foothills of Wicklow Mountains (top) and gorse flowers (and spider!) at Doorus Co Clare

This is really just an excuse to include in my blog this photo I took last week on the fringes of the Wicklow Mountains on the Eastern side of Ireland. It was early in the morning and the countryside was bathed in bright sunshine when a sharp shower produced a spectacular rainbow right ahead of me. I had to pull in and capture the moment.

I'm sure I ought to have known this, but it hadn't struck me until then, that when the sun is low in the sky, as it was then, the rainbow it produces is also a low arc in the sky. I suppose I'm more used to seeing rainbows that come with rain later in the day and then it's hard to capture the full arc without a very wide angle lens.

It's not coincidental that gorse is in the foreground. It's a dominant feature of the landscape in Ireland - surprising really for a plant with reduced leaves and spines - adaptations for growing in dry conditions. It obviously isn't aware that 'dry' and 'Ireland' are rarely, if ever, heard in the same sentence.

In early spring gorse has the landscape to itself and wherever you look, yellow is the dominant colour. Now the blackthorn and hawthorn are in flower white is starting to edge out the yellow. But the remarkable thing about gorse is that it flowers pretty well throughout the year, hence the old saying:

"When gorse is out of bloom,
Kissing's out of season."

The custom, in some parts of the British Isles, of inserting a spray of gorse in the bridal bouquet is an allusion to this saying.

We've got quite a few gorse bushes on our land and the sweet scent of coconut they give off is quite noticeable - particularly at this time of year. It's inspired me to have a go at making gorse flower wine which apparently retains this delicate aroma of coconuts.

The recipe is:

1 gallon of gorse flowers
1 gallon of water
2-3lb of sugar
1 tablespoon cold tea
1 orange
1 lemon
50g root ginger
25g yeast

Cover the flowers, ginger, orange and lemon juice and rind with boiling water. After 5 days, with occasional stirring, strain into a fermenting jar. Dissolve the sugar in the rest of the water and add it. When cool add the yeast and cold tea. Syphon after a couple of months and again in 8 to 10 weeks.

I wonder what the tablespoon of tea is for?!

It sounds easy enough. Look back around October to see whether it turned out to be drinkable!


Bea said...

Your gorse bushes are just beautiful and I had no idea that they gave off a coconut scent. How interesting. It's a beautiful shade of yellow.

suzi said...

Fantastic photo of the rainbow, I can't remember the last time I saw one. We have lots of gorse close by in The New Forest and along the coast. The bright colour is very uplifting.

Leatherdykeuk said...

Fabulous photo.

Tea is for tannin

Twisted willow said...

The scent is quite striking, Bea, a bit like some of those Body Shop perfumes - but much more subtle.
We get lots of rainbows here in Ireland, Suzi - comes of having so much rain I suppose! The yellow of gorse is so intense, isn't it - and it comes at a time when we need cheering up.
Thanks, Rachel. So it's for flavour then?

Jason said...

Amazing rainbow! The Gorse wine sound interesting. Love the idea of making wine out of the plants around you.

DK Leather said...

ooh lovely entry, fabulous picture of the rainbow too.

You know something? You give good blog mr Jim!

BT said...

So where's this wine then? Let's hope we get some dry days and then you can gather the flowers, if they haven't all been blown off.