Why The Ash Tree?

Many people ask me why the ash tree?

In all honesty there isn’t just one reason, there are several.

First reason:

I have always been captivated by the ash tree after I learnt about it growing up in Iceland.  Even before starting school, we are taught that the Ash tree is the tree of life in Norse Mythology. The home to the Viking gods, Viking Norns, the people and everything in-between!  

Also, when growing up in a place like Iceland, people are brought up respecting the few fragile trees around.

I grew up in a harsh environment and climbing trees no matter what country I as in was my safe space. My imaginary haven!  

As I grew older, I was more inclined to read or write sitting by a tree trunk or meet up with friends and enjoy a lifelong Icelandic tradition.  Listen to hundreds of good stories sat by a campfire, singing songs, respecting the land and telling tales of the Vikings and their life tree.

It was inevitable I would continue to respect this magnificent tree.

This is where my research led me to discover that the Ash tree was all edible with incredible medicinal benefits such as being a natural anti-inflammatory source.

Second reason:

Always acquiring more knowledge about trees I started working more and more with them. As a chef with specialty in using foraged items, I soon discovered that alongside the Birch, the Beech and many other species of trees, that the Vikings, Anglo-Saxons, the French and even the Middle East used trees for medicinal purposes as well as picking their fruits and nuts.

Third reason:

It was when I was doing my research, I found out that the Ash tree is under severe threat from ash dieback. A fungus, with a symbiotic relationship with the ash tree, yet one that feeds the fungi at the expense of killing the ash tree.

I knew I had to do something when further I discovered all of Estonia’s ash tree’s have been wiped out.

The UK has over 200million ash trees with it being one of the largest of all the tree population within the UK. It would be devastating to wild animals and history if England had to fell all the ash trees.

Hence here we are now: Öskuhús was born.

Incorporating Ash in all we do, with proceeds going to research on how we maintain the trees we already have and to planting new trees.

And of course, producing ash-tastic products!


Meet our Partners

When Oddný started Öskuhús she knew she couldn´t do this alone.

She was embarking on a journey that up until meeting John Wright the one and only famous foraging legend she had been dismissed when saying that the ash tree was edible.

With hours of his help and several books and calls later she had all she needed!

It was then she realised that even though she could do it all with her food experience, she decided to partner up with small to medium makers. Find foodies as passionate as her and ask them to make recipes to the Icelandic flavour profiling. After all we buy Waitrose own and M&S Ranges. They tend to be made by someone else who is already producing that product. It is a brilliant way of supporting more than one business and we want to be transparent about that.

We do this because we are a small business and to achieve our goals of both making great food and drink as well as save the ash tree then we have to be realistic. The best way to achieve this is to work with incredible makers who are willing to make a special ash tree blend to our pallet and link up with as many tree organisations as possible!

We will as time goes by introduce you in depth to each partner but as it stands here are our incredible partners that help us make the dream come true!

John Wright: John is an author, River Cottage chief forager, TV presented, but mainly him and his family are the most beautiful people willing to put up with us and constantly teach us more and more!

Future Tree trust: We reached out to the future tree trust when we heard about the Living Ash Project and the research they do. Focusing their efforts to saving this incredible tree! Finding variants that are more tolerant and replanting those in hope to re-seed new ash trees for the ones we will loose. There are incredible organisations behind this such as Kew Gardens, Fera, Forest Research and many others all with the same goal. To rescue the ash tree, where possible.

Grasagarðurinn i Reykjavík: Ash dieback has not reached Iceland – It is the only country in the world not affected. As such we had to reach out to our old stomping ground where we learnt what we know today and they have been incredible. Supplying us with ash and opening up doors to organisations in Iceland. It is good to see the ash tree fight happening all around the world.

Bristol Botanicals: Supplying high grade botanicals in huge supply to hospitals, research centres around the world and direct to market. They were just brilliant when we kept coming with more questions.

Bad Hand Coffee: We have been working with Bad Hand Coffee since 2016 when we had Oskubox! These guys are as passionate as we are about coffee and doing what we can for our planet! Thanks guys for all you do.

Beaulie Chocolate Studio: Also been working with these incredible guys since 2016! You can’t find anyone more passionate about chocolate and flavours then this family award winning business!

Conkor Spirit & Bath Distillery: Both these companies gave us the confidence to go exploring in the early days when making ash tree alcohol. They continue to be on hand to taste, help and support. Takk so much!

The Guild of Fine Food: Such a large part of our journey. When being the first to market it is vital to ask questions and be open to feedback. These guys work with thousands of makers and brands and we are so grateful for the support along the way

Oliver Spendley & Reclaimed Design: These guys share our incredible passion of reusing trees – especially Ash and breathing life to a fallen or cut down tree. Using the old to tell a story! To show the importance of creativity and using that have a voice!

There are also individuals we could not have done this without. They are paving the way for a new way of supplying, teaching and reaching out the masses. These are Lee Morton, James Fowler, Drinks Maven, and so many more!

Takk and again Takk to everyone!


You got this!

Merry Christmas on this rather odd time of all our lives.

We want to keep it simple and send you all a massive big hug and send you the biggest amount of hope there is that things can only get better.

You have got this!

Thank you to everyone that despite a world pandemic supports us, books us, orders bespoke creations and to the regulars of the ash tree coffee

Merry Christmas, Gleðileg jól, gud jol, feliz navidad and to every other culture and country! Big FAT hugs

We also shared a video on Instagram to home in the message that even though times are hard you have got this

#bighugs


Is the Ash tree edible?

Yes!

Indeed the ash tree is all edible. It is quite ash-tounding that this knowledge has been buried for so long within most countries. We can only assume it was something that Vikings knew about given the ash tree was the tree of life Yggdrasil.

We here at Öskuhús stumbled upon this one evening when researching how to make the clearest alcohol with Beech tree leaves. We were searching for ideas whilst enjoying a cold öl (beer) finding fun ideas on trees.

edible ash tree with oskuhus

There it was. Ash tree otherwise known as Fraxinus in Latin, has been on the market in our neighbouring countries for more than 30 years, thus they may be considered as traditional herbal medicinal products according to the criteria of 2004/24/EC Directive.

Even better – it is related to the Olive tree as well!

ash tree with oskuhus, eat live love Icelandic

After even further research and talking to various foraging friends we discovered that the Fraxinus plant has been accounted for its wide spectrum of biological activities including anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, antioxidant, anticytotoxic, antiaging, antimicrobial, and antihypertensive.

We have read several technical reports and they all agree the following about the Ash tree: 

Given the ash is related the Olive tree it as for many plant-derived polyphenols, it has been largely assumed that EVOO-derived complex phenols such as lignans, flavonoids and secoiridoids 127-130 provide health benefits, primarily due to their antioxidant activity

Secoiridoids

From the point of view of isolation, these are the most exhaustively targeted compounds reported from this species: ligstroside and oleuropein

Oleuropein and its metabolite, hydroxytyrosol, have powerful antioxidant activity, which might be responsible for some of olive oil’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and disease-fighting activities. Oleuropein is best known for its blood pressure-lowering effect

Oleuropein and Health. Oleuropein has several pharmacological properties, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-atherogenic, antimicrobial, and antiviral, and for these reasons, it is commercially available as food supplement in Mediterranean countries

The level of potassium was measured to be 1.7% by Carnat

And there you have it. The ash tree is safe for consumption and has been for several years with Spain, Portugal and Belgium already selling it in medicinal format.

With Ash dieback not being harmful to humans at all!

As mentioned above – totally Ash-stounding!

I know I am bleating on… but even sheep lap it up! I am used to them just wanting to head butt me or run away, but show up with a branch of ash tree and et voila! They are like putty in my hand!

Goes to show that the animal instinct didn’t forget this natural delicacy! Go Ash-tree!


What does Öskhús mean?

Öskuhús is the combination of two Icelandic words:

Ösku: which is ash

Hús; which is house or home.

green Icelandic inspired


And there you have it, quite simply Öskuhús translates as the home of all things ash!

You’d be forgiven for thinking that by ash we’re referring to the big ash cloud of 2010, that following the eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull caused huge disruptions to air travellers across Europe, but no, we’re in fact referring to the wonderful ash tree! Or as its better known in Norse mythology, Yggdrasil.

Yggdrasil or ‘The Tree of Life’, is commonly said to be an ash tree in Old Norse literature and housed all the Viking legend gods such as Thor, Odin, Frigg, Loki.

Save the ash tree #nordicnosh

Gods lived at the top, humans at the bottom, with evil kinds resting their hollow souls in the roots. The gossip squirrel would run up and down the trunk spreading stories between all the worlds!
The ‘curse striker’ Níðhöggur, a snake/dragon would eat Yggdrasil’s roots, and therefore many human Vikings believed they had to worship him on the front of their Viking ships so that he would not let them sail (fall?) overboard and die an empty shallow death.

Trees are sparse in Iceland and Oddný, the founder of Öskuhús, took to climbing trees as a child. When she could not be found, for sure she was hiding in the climbable branches available in Iceland, and for that matter in England when she would visit.

Oddný has always been passionate about anything made from trees and the benefits they have to offer. While learning about Norse mythology as a child in Iceland, her teacher Þórhallur (Thorhallur) would captivate the whole class room with his invigorating story telling. She could imagine this magical home to all the gods and humans and it made life sparkle a little bit more!

This passion did not fade as Oddný grew up. If anything, her intrigue and hunger to learn about trees continued to grow. She would develop expertise in identifying trees but more importantly, she researched how each species of tree can be utilised in everyday life. For example, as you may already know, the birch can be tapped to provide water, Beach used for gin infusions, elderflowers can be used for drink, food or decorations. The list goes on…

ash tree and birch tree can both be tapped

Oddný continues to experiment with trees and their various uses, however after having her own restaurant she was able to really branch out. It was at this time that she discovered just how edible the ash tree is. She spent two years reaching out to foragers but to no avail.

It wasn’t until she discovered books from the 1960’s that spoke about the Ash tree’s historical use for medicinal purposes that she was able to expand her research. Then a miracle happened! Oddný met John Wright, author of many forager’s guides for the River Cottage Handbook series. John kindly and patiently spent lots of time with Oddný and helped her acquire the correct research material and reports to confirm that the Ash tree was edible.

Then the door opened even further when she spoke to the owner of Bristol Botanicals, further confirming that the ash tree was indeed all edible, super rich in anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties  and that regardless of the ash dieback, we can safely eat and drink all aspects of the tree.

edible ash tree anti oxidants & anti inflammatory

Knowing of the danger of ash dieback, and with Estonia’s ash trees already completely wiped out by this disease, Oddný knew that she had to do something to raise awareness of the huge threat faced by this incredible tree, one so rich in history and medicinal values.

With a rich background in cooking and judging at the Guild of Fine Food Oddný began to experiment with the ash tree and discover the flavours and medicinal benefits it brings. Et Voila – she knew she had to spread the knowledge in product form and release all the products made with ash tree under the name Öskuhús.

ash tree coffee. Eat live love Icelandic

After all the ash tree was the home to all living things in Norse mythology, and now armed with the information of just how rich it is in medicinal benefits we can all understand why it was called The Tree of Life!


How does Öskuhús work?

Here at Öskuhús we decided to do things a bit different.

We don´t have one purpose but two!

We want to make food, drink and products that all remind us of Iceland, and the second one is to include the Ash tree to try and save it!

Oskuhus home of Nordic nosh and saving the ash tree

How and Why?

Because the Ash tree is a super special tree to us.

It is full of medicinal benefits. It has anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties. No wonder it was the Vikings tree of life!

However it is dying out! It has a disease called ash dieback. And the sad thing about it dying out is the usefulness of it will too.

save the ash tree from ash dieback with oskuhus

Hardly anyone knows it is so rich in health benefits.

Our founder Oddný is an award winning chef and an international judge for the drinks and food industry as well as having worked in foraging since a teenager.

She knows that she can´t be making all the items as well as trying to fight the green corner of the ash tree, so we have teamed up with independt, passionate makers. Peopel that share out vision.

We create blends, producst and drinks with them by infusing, adding and steeping ash until the flavour is sensational and how the good folk in Iceland would like it.

oskuhus ashtree coffee

This not only gives us the opportunity to expand the reach to show people how delicious the ash tree is but also makes more than one business work.

Oddný is tastes and tests each product with each maker and partner. By doing things this way we make sure that not only does everything taste like in Iceland but it is made carefully and always flavour profiling the ash.

We then partner up with organisations that are equally as passionate about saving the ash!

We will introduce each partner so you can see for yourself how we hand pick them and work with them to get the best out of each creation but also how we plant and save trees as we do it

planting trees whilst drinking ashtreecoffee

Oskuhus Ash tree Crowdfunder

Góðan Daginn incredible customers, visitors and online browsers.

We refuse to give up and let the current circumstances affect our mission to make Icelandic inspired products with ash enabling us to be part of hopefully saving the ash tree!

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/help-me-save-the-ash-tree-by-eating-drinking-it

So when someone (we still don’t know) nominated us to do a crowdfunder and keep all that we raise. No fees from crowdfunder! We jumped at the opportunity! They have been so helpful and along with friends and family we have launched a campaign.

Doing the video was a real experience and so much fun. There are bits cut out such of Oddny doing rolly pollies in a field amongst the ash trees and dog walkers wondering what on earth was going on!

We will fight for this tree and other trees for as long as we can and we also continue to create new delicious produce with our trusted suppliers as life is simply too short not to get creative, eat, drink and be out in nature!

We hope you like our campaign and fingers crossed we get the teas out there and are able to create a healthy supply chain to try and save the trees one product at a time!

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/help-me-save-the-ash-tree-by-eating-drinking-it


Hello world

Halló or Hello everyone and welcome to Öskuhús.

This first blog post is long overdue but we are happy to be posting now.

For those who have followed us since Öskubox days thank you for all your support and still showing the Ösku brand the love! For the newbies thank you for letting your intrigue kick in and coming to look at us.

Since we launched the idea of making things – especially edible things with the ash tree it has been a journey and a half! Öskubox was as everyone that visited all based on the tree of life – Yggdrasil – and it is believed to have been an Ash tree. We already knew quite a lot about the ash tree from our University days where we took a year out to study Norse Mythology and the Viking language. However, we never learnt that the ash tree was so rich in antitoxins and was anti-inflammatory. Some even say anti-aging!!!

When we discovered this – we were off! Researching and talking to anyone that would show us the time!
Our search led us to meet John Wright from River Cottage and his best friend Rob. That is when things really took off. John sat with us and we went through endless number of books researching and Voila he found the medical report where Spain, Portugal and Belgium have been using the ash tree for centuries. We had lift off!
This was then followed up with a chat with the Bristol Botanicals, they were able to further confirm we were safe to eat and drink the ash tree!

We since then have perfected the coffee with both our roasters; Bad Hand coffee and Tipsy Cow – both of which are eco friendly and super sustainable. We have also been building up a fab friendship with our packaging suppliers Jamosolutions and we buy fully compostable bags. Our designer friends at CuCo creative then make the magic happen with all the designs on recycled paper!

Then every time someone buys our products we send a % to our tree partners and those funds either go into researching how we can protect the remaining ash tree or into planting new trees.
So guilt free cup of coffee we say…

It truly is an incredible start to something we hope will only grow! There are more things in the pipeline and due to launch soon! We will try our best to write more blogs to help keep you the main priority (apart from the trees obviously) up to date. And please feel free to spread the love about what we are trying to do. We and the ash tree would really ashpreciate it…. 😊

Just remember that life is BeauTReeful #nordicnosh #elli #ash #tree #ashapprecaited