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This recipe was inspired by rambles across heather moors on hot days; gorse petals have a sweet, coconutty fragrance, but you do have to work a little harder to gather them as their thorns are a nightmare.

The shrub itself is a large, evergreen species and can flower throughout the year, blossoming most frequently in spring.

Gorse bushes and Belle Tout Lighthouse in East Sussex. © Tim Grist Photography/Getty

In Hampshire we have a local man who makes mead from his own honeybees and adds elderflower and hawthorn to create deep woodland flavours.

I highly recommend sourcing local honey for this recipe; not only does it nourish your local environment and community, but all jars of honey taste different and it’s wonderful to be able to capture the unique flavours of the landscape around you.

Combined with the flavour of honey and gorse, the chilli is not particularly fierce but it does leave a warming sensation after the last drop is guzzled. This recipe makes 5-6 bottles.

Head over to our foraging hub for more foraging advice and recipes, including how to forage sustainably, how to make dandelion scones, and how to make elderflower sorbet.

Ingredients

  • 1.2kg Honey
  • 1.9l Water
  • 1tsp Yeast, dried
  • 2 mugs Gorse petals, fresh
  • 8 Chillies, dried or fresh

Method

  • STEP 1

    Take a sterilised demijohn and pour in the honey, water, yeast, gorse petals and chillies.

  • STEP 2

    Stir thoroughly, either with a stick or by swirling the mixture around, and then seal the opening with an airlock.

    Leave at room temperature for 4-6 weeks, or until the water in the airlock stops bubbling.

  • STEP 3

    If possible, transfer the mixture into bottles using a syphon, which means you can avoid the gorse petals and take out the clearest part of the liquid.

    If a syphon is not available, sieve the mixture slowly into bottles, taking care not to leave an air gap between the liquid and the bottle top.

  • STEP 4

    The mead will be a little cloudy at first but over time any residue will settle at the bottle bottom. Store the bottles in a cool, dark place for a year before drinking.


Tiffany Francis-Baker is a nature writer and illustrator from the South Downs in Hampshire. She is the author of several non-fiction books, including Dark Skies: A Journey into the Wild Night, a nature memoir about the landscape after dark. In 2019, she was chosen as a Writer-in-Residence for Forestry England to celebrate their centenary year. She has written, edited and illustrated for a number of national publications, including The Guardian, Harper’s Bazaar, BBC Countryfile, BBC Wildlife and Resurgence & Ecologist, as well as appearing on BBC Radio 4 and Channel 4. She is a Custodian for the South Downs National Park and also runs a small business selling her own ethically designed gifts and stationery.

Tiffany Francis-Baker 2

This is a recipe from Food You Can Forage by Tiffany Francis, published Bloomsbury Wildlife.

Food You Can Forage

Main image: Gorse flowers. © Callum Redgrave-Close/Getty

Authors

Tiffany Francis-BakerNature writer and illustrator

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