Long, long, long ago, when I was very small, my mum showed me & my brothers how to dye eggs using gorse flowers (or ‘whin’, if you’re from North Antrim like she is). Back then there was a large swathe of land that backed onto our garden on two sides which we called ‘the Rough Ground’, with cows, brambles, a stream, a ditch, secret paths & dens – paradise for small children – and this was where she sent us out to pick the whin for the eggs. It was a sunny day and the whin smelled intoxicatingly tropical & exotic in the warmth; so unlike any other food or flower that usually came through our kitchen; a vivid, heady fragrance that once tasted is never forgotten.
With whin covering all of the nearby hills around us as it does every spring – the taste & smell of the colour yellow writ large across a landscape – I decided to try dyeing eggs again myself last week, using this helpful guide to natural dyeing from The Kitchn & pale duck eggs as a basis for my experimentation. What I had forgotten in the intervening years since I last dyed eggs was quite how much whin would be required – I only managed to dye one egg with a full saucepan of the blossoms.
And while I at least achieved a prettily convincing yellow colour on the egg I did manage to dye [I had more success with my red cabbage dye, which turned five eggs a beautiful marbled blue], I decided that the remainder of the whin that I’d picked would be better put to use in their fresh form: the early blossoms have an incredible, bright, floral, almost coconutty & slightly tannic taste, making them a gorgeous addition to springtime dishes.
To harvest your whin…
Once you’ve found a blazing yellow bush (if you live in Ireland there is probably one near your house), don a pair of heavy gardening gloves & carefully harvest the blossoms, avoiding the very spiky spikes. Gather only the brightest, yellowest blooms, as these will be tender & sweet. Use them as soon as possible as they will start to wilt slightly after an hour or two.
GRILLED SAVOY CABBAGE SALAD with whin flowers
Made with grilled young Savoy cabbage, herbs & a light dressing, this colourful salad would be perfect topped with dyed hard-boiled eggs or served alongside your Easter roast.
2 small, young, very fresh heads of Savoy cabbage
Large handful of fresh mint leaves, lightly torn
Large handful of fresh dill, torn
Handful of fresh parsley, finely diced
3 tbsp rich Greek yogurt
Juice & zest of half a lemon
1 small clove of garlic, peeled & diced
1 tbsp olive oil
Grana padano or parmesan shavings
Large handful of whin blossoms (see note above)
Salt & black pepper
Peel off the outer leaves of the cabbages so that you’re left with just the tender inner hearts. Cut these into wedges. Chop the outer leaves roughly and place on your serving dish. Barbecue or grill the cabbage wedges until lightly charred, turning halfway through cooking. Place on the serving dish while still warm & drizzle with a little olive oil. Squeeze over some lemon juice & season with salt & pepper. Add the dill & mint.
Mix the Greek yogurt with 1 tbsp olive oil, salt, pepper, parsley, lemon zest & garlic. Open out each of the cabbage wedges in a fan shape & brush the dressing onto the exposed edges & add dollops elsewhere. Top with the whin flowers & some parmesan shavings. Serve with hard boiled eggs or alongside your Easter roast.