Business, Community, Environment

Gin fuels record gorse harvest

Volunteers spent four hours picking 6kgs of gorse flowers. Photo: Supplied.

A key ingredient in a Marlborough-made gin is helping keep a notorious weed at bay.

Record hauls of gorse flower have been gathered at a community harvest event.

Six kilogrammes of the yellow flower were handpicked over four hours.

Twice a year, the team behind Marlborough’s new Elemental Distillery organise a local foraging event.

In a bid to entice people to pick the problem plant, which causes misery to hay fever sufferers every spring, Elemental Distillers co-owner Ben Leggett puts on a free BBQ.

But Ben himself is a big fan of the plant.

“I simply love it. Not only is it both aromatic, herbaceous and fruity but it’s somewhat of an anti-establishment botanical in a market already full of rogue exotic species.

“The only issue remaining is how to harvest it in peak flowering and in volumes enough to last until the following season,” he says.

The answer came in the form of eight off-road vehicles, one gourmet barbeque put on by Francis Nolan from Boom Chef, a large pine plantation, local volunteers and some very thick gloves.

Introduced around the early 19th century as a hedgerow for livestock by European settlers, gorse flourished in New Zealand’s temperate climate flowering twice a year compared to just once in the Northern Hemisphere.

Gorse also generates exploding seed pods which can travel over 6 metres from the parent plant and can lay dormant in soil for up to 50 years before sprouting.

Ben says thanks to a collaboration with Marlborough 4WD Club, 15 local volunteers headed up into Marlborough’s Kaituna Hills last month aiming for a 300-meter-high plateau located in Stoney Creek forestry.

“Without the support by Marlborough locals, we would never have been able to deliver a fresh botanical gin like that of Roots,” Ben says.

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