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Baked Wild garlic and cheese scones on a colling rack

Ash keys (fruits of the Ash tree Fraxinus excelsior) need to be gathered when they are very small and young, and if bitten they should be crisp but succulent. In this condition they hang in dense little pale green bunches and so are easily gathered in quantity.

Immature ash keys can be eaten raw when in this soft state (with no formed seed visible in the centre of the key), They have a nutty flavour and can also be boiled, or pickled following the old recipe below.


  • 500g of green ash keys, (can be easily adapted for smaller quantities)

  • 1 level teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 6 peppercorns

  • 1 level teaspoon allspice

  • ½ level teaspoon ground ginger

  • 1 level teaspoon salt

  • 2-3 tablespoons brown sugar or 1 tablespoon of honey

  • 375ml Cider Vinegar


Edible Ask keys covered with water in pan

Once collected, wash the Ash keys, removing any stalks, then place in a pan, and cover with cold water.

Simmer for 5 minutes.

Strain and repeat a second time with fresh water and strain again. This removes any bitterness that may sometimes be present.

The Ash keys are then ready to go into the clean jars, leaving space at the top for the vinegar to cover them by about 1cm and leave a similar air gap under the lid.

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, and then mix with the cider vinegar.

Stand the bowl in a pan of water, cover and bring the water to the boil for 5 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

Pickled Ash Keys

Strain the liquid through a jam cloth and pour into the jars covering the tops of the Ash keys filling the jars to the brim. Seal the jars, if using metal lids put two layers of greaseproof paper over the top of the jar first to prevent the vinegar degrading the lid.

Leave for at least 3-4 months, then enjoy!


If you'd like to discover more of nature's harvest, why not join one of our wild food and forage day workshops running in Spring and Autumn.

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