Species: Ash (Fraxinus excelsior)

Family: Olives (OLEACEAE)

Category: Flowering Plants

Location: NW

A. Flowering Plants

More extensive information on flowering plants can be found in a separate blog post.

B. Olives (OLEACEAE)

Olive, ash, privet, and lilac are well known members of this family.

C. Ash (Fraxinus excelsior)

Before the familiar black buds of this native tree appear the petalless flowers with their purple black stamens open in April, the stamens later turning green. Ash timber is hard and versatile, taking shock and strain very well, maintaining its shape under pressure. It is used for waggon wheel felloes (rims), shafts and undercarriage, heavy tool handles (pitchfork, pick-axe, sledge hammer, axe, beetle, scythe, fork, rake, shovel, spade), walking sticks, shepherds’ crooks, cattle drovers’ heavy sticks, dibbers, ladder poles, gates and heavy crates. The ash saplings used to make walking sticks are bent and straightened after heating in heavy sand. A large number of sports items, which strike or are struck, are made from ash, such as gymnasium bars, cricket stumps, polo clubs, tennis racquets, skis, snowshoes, sledge runners, oars, paddles, and shinty sticks.

Ash saplings were split to resemble the female vulva, and hernia sufferers passed through in a ceremonial rebirth. The sapling was bound, and as it grew together so the patient hoped to be cured. Ash bark was used to treat malaria. The ash has edible leaves and seed pods, the latter known as ‘keys’. Both are usually gathered in July. An infusion of chopped ash leaves is a mild laxative and purgative. Young, green keys, when pickled, are a traditional accompaniment to cheese and cold meats.

Additional Information

Recipe for Pickled Ash Keys

4 oz (100g) ash keys 1 tbsp grated horseradish
1 tsp black peppercorns ¾ pint cider (425ml) vinegar
¼ pint (150ml) dry cider 2 tbsp honey.
Boil the ash keys in water for 5 minutes. Cool in cold water then reboil. Do this until they are tender and there is no remaining bitterness. Mix with the horseradish and black peppercorns and pack into a jar. Warm the cider vinegar, cider, and honey, and stir until the honey has dissolved. Bring to the boil and pour into the jar until full. Put on a loose cover and heat in the oven at 200F/100C/gas mark ¼ for about an hour. Seal and eat after 2-3 weeks.