woodland crafts

John Muir Award

Brighter Planet's 350 Challenge

How to Make Ash Key Pickle Recipe

altAs one of the most common trees in the United Kingdom it comes as no surprise that the ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior) graces nearly all of our local woodlands here in Mid-Kent. The ash tree not only provides us with excellent wood for making craft items, tool handles, furniture, etc. but it also provides us with pendulous clusters of seeds, called keys, which we can pickle. For best results the ash keys are best harvested before they develop “stringy” fibres - so there is only a small window of opportunity to harvest them at their best, we tested ours by snapping them.

What you will need to pickle ash keys.

  • 1 pint of ash keys
  • A large pan
  • A Kilner style jar
  • A glass heat resistant bowl
  • Dried or fresh bay leaves
  • Ground or whole cloves
  • Ground or fresh ginger
  • Cinnamon either ground or sticks
  • Brown sugar
  • Cider vinegar
  • Pickling spice
  • Salt
  • Black peppercorns

Firstly select only the softest and greenest of your ash keys and remove all of the stalks.

Collected ash keys

Next thoroughly wash the keys; we do this by placing a colander in a sink full of cold water and putting the selected keys in the colander.

Then place the selected and washed keys in a pan and add enough cold water to cover. Bring this water to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and repeat this process.


We then packed the Kilner jar with the ash keys carefully stacked in an upright position.


In a heat resistant Pyrex bowl we placed half a crushed cinnamon stick, about one dozen whole cloves, a half a teaspoon of ground ginger, two fresh bay leaves, six black peppercorns and a teaspoon of pickling spice.


To this we then added 3 heaped table spoons of soft brown sugar and a pinch of salt.


Then add two cups of cider vinegar and place the Pyrex bowl in a pan with about 30mm of cold water, this water is then brought to the boil, like a bain-marie (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bain-marie). Heat the mixture for a good five minutes and let the heady vapours fill your kitchen – wonderful!


The liquor was then left to cool before straining though some muslin and adding to the ash keys, ensuring the keys are covered.

It’s now time to close the lid and put the jar in a dark cool cupboard for at least three months, so ours will be in prime condition for the cheese board on Christmas Day.



#3 cha0tic 2014-06-04 21:36
I'm interested in this, but have a couple of questions.

Why boil the Ash keys, change the water, then boil again? Does this remove something from them?

Why use a Bain Marie for the Vinegar and spices?

Why let the vinegar spice mix cool down before adding to the Ash keys in the jar?
#2 M Noueiri 2013-09-22 20:49
Awesome! Always looking for foraging ideas. Had not heard of this one!
#1 adam 2011-03-17 20:46
This looks an excellant recipe, I must give it a try later this year!

Please register to post comments

Contact Badger Bushcraft

T:01233 756447

M:07768 201177



Bespoke Bushcraft Courses


Let us design a programme to your needs, including bushcraft, survival skills, primitive technology, nature education, backwoods cooking or any other related subject.

"Thank you so much for the fantastic “Badger Bushcraft” day yesterday. All the children loved every moment of it, and were totally enthused by all the wonderful artefacts, tools and objects you provided for them."

Jane Voller, Teacher Egerton CP School
School Based Project July 2010

Bushcraft For Schools

Bushcraft for Schools

Bushcraft and Nature Based Learning events aimed at fulfilling key criteria of the National Curriculum.