Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

ash-keys the fruits of the European ash, Fraxinus excelsior. The name is given to them because they hang in pendent clusters, like a bunch of keys. Each fruit has a ‘wing’ attached to help dispersal.

Ash-keys in the green state are sometimes pickled. The practice used to be more widespread, and there are many recipes in 17th- and 18th-century cookery books. That by Evelyn (1699) is precise:

Ashen Keys. Gather them young, and boil them in three or four Waters to extract the bitterness; and when they feel tender, prepare a Syrup of sharp White-wine Vinegar, Sugar, and a little Water. Then boil them on a very quick Fire, and they will become a green colour, fit to be potted so soon as cold.