It is nice to see the Gorse in flower again, it’s lovely yellow flowers always calling the eye. Gorse (Ulex europaeus) also called Furze or Whin is a plant that was much used in the past. It used to be burned every few years to provide fertility for the soil. The new emerging shoots would be eaten with relish by animals. It also used to be dried and hung in the stable to supplement Winter fodder. It was dried and used as a fuel which was said to give great heat. The flowers yield a yellow dye and also make a very palatable wine. The bark can be used to make a dark green dye. An essence can be made from the flowers which is used for healing the land.
Coltsfoot is plentiful at the moment, it seems to like road verges and the shelter of hedges. It’s best known as a remedy for coughs and asthmatic problems. However, there is a caution that overuse can cause liver damage. It is much used in herbal tobaccos.
In the garden all the herbs are now providing fresh pickings. Many gardening books say French Tarragon is a tender plant, however it survived -18 here this past Winter. French Tarragon, with it’s delicious aniseed flavour is great in herb butter and salad dressings. It is a good remedy for indigestion and is said to stimulate the appetite.
Chives belong to the Allium species and have a mild onion flavour. We have loads of Chives in the fruit garden as they are a good companion plants particularly for Apples as they keep away aphids, apple scab and mildew. Planted near Peach trees they control leafcurl and are said to enhance the scent of Roses. In the kitchen they have a multitude of uses, salads, herb butters, soups or mixed with cream cheese to mention just a few. The only limit to uses for culinary herbs is your imagination!