The whole of Scotland’s population could be fed using protein from the gorse bush, a plant widespread in Scotland, according to a scientist.
The invasive prickly plant, widely cleared in Scotland, contains 17% protein and has been used as animal food in the past.
Professor Wendy Russell, from the University of Aberdeen, is part of a Scottish Government research programme looking into the protein content of invasive plants that must be doused with herbicides to keep them under control.
She revealed the gorse bush produced much less carbon dioxide emissions to make protein separate from gorse – 4.5 to 6kg – compared to an average of 102kg for meat.
Prof Russell has said using the plant for human protein intake was something to consider in the future.
She said: “It’s something that we can gain protein from at no extra cost – and probably at a saving.
“When we did the calculations, just from active removal from marginal lands, there is enough gorse protein to easily feed our population.
“Gorse and broom were fed to cattle at times when crops failed in the past, so we think protein from these types of plants could be used as animal food.
“If protein isolates are produced in the correct way, so to be safe, they could be considered as human food in the future.
“I’m not advocating that we’re ready to feed gorse to humans at this point, but it’s something that we can think about for the future.”