One of the principle uses of ash has been as a timber tree. The wood is renowned for its strength and flexibility, such as for building, furniture-making, garden tools, farming equipment, weapons and musical instruments. Geoffrey Grigson writes that the ash is “immensely useful even in our age of steel and alloy”.
John Evelyn (1620–1706) wrote in his Sylva that the ash is so useful that “every prudent Lord of a Manor should employ one acre of ground with Ash to every twenty acres of other land, since in as many years it would be more worth than the land itself”.
In Britain, ash remains one of the most important hard woods grown by the Forestry Commission.
The ash is famous in many cultures as a powerful tree of life, death and rebirth. It was believed that its roots extended as far below the earth as its branches rose to the sky.
The ash is a tree of immense symbolism and meaning, and as such it has been both protected and respected throughout the ages.
“All know that in the woods
the ash reigns queen,
In graceful beauty soaring to the sky.”
Garcilaso de la Vega (1503–1536)
Scientific name: Fraxinus excelsior
How to Use Ash
Very young winged keys (before the fruit has developed) have traditionally been pickled in spiced vinegar.
The leaves have occasionally been used as an adulterant to tea. In France the leaves are an ingredient in a mildly alcoholic fermented drink called ‘Frenette’, also known as ‘Ash Cider’.
Balsamic vinegar is aged in ash barrels, and ash wood is used in the smoking of a Bavarian ham sausage called ‘Schinkenwurst’.
A sugary sap can be collected which is known as ‘Manna’.