Ash has stood on the margins between magic and medicine for centuries. A healing tree once believed to cure snake bites, the ash has fallen out of use in modern medicine.
It is still remembered with fondness by those who remember picking its winged seeds to make ash key pickle.
Ash has light grey bark and large compound leaves divided into four or eight pairs of lance-shaped leaflets with sharply toothed margins. The tree grows up to 40 m. The leaves are preceded by black flower buds bursting into clusters of greenish-white or purplish colours. The fruit or seed, each has a single long wing called an ‘ash key’, which aids wind pollination.
Deciduous woodland, hedgerows, scrub
Parts Used For Food
Seeds, shoots, leaves and sap.
The keys (the winged seeds) have been eaten as a pickle in Europe and Asia. The young shoots are edible and can be added raw to salads.
The leaves have been used for tea. The tree sap can be tapped to make ash wine. REF
It is not noted as having any particular nutritional benefits, although its astringency may explain some of its healing effects in folk medicine. The leaves may have a laxative effect. REF
Herbal Medicine Uses of Ash
It was once an ancient remedy for snake bites, and was believed to cure many other ailments from obesity to leprosy! The tree was also used to treat jaundice, kidney and bladder stones, flatulence, warts, ringworm, and earache. REF
The wood was used to make spears as well as being excellent for firewood. REF
About The Author
Robin Harford is a plant-based forager, ethnobotanical researcher, and wild food educator. He is the author of Edible and Medicinal Wild Plants of Britain and Ireland.
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