Traditional and Modern Use of Ash

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 hardwoods 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
Family: Oleaceae

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’.

Ash Recipes

2 thoughts on “Traditional and Modern Use of Ash

  1. A shame the quote from John Evelyn is nonsense. An ash tree at twenty years old is valueless, other than for a day or two’s firewood. I am very focused on my ash trees due to die back. Trees that were a good size when I bought my land forty years ago have very little mill able timber: I know because I have a mill and plank anything worthwhile, saving the part of the trunk where the limbs divide for turning.

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