Manna of Sicily ~ Tapping the Ash
‘Manna of Sicily’, if you can buy it – extremely hard these days – was traditionally stocked in European pharmacies. It is white crystals, very sweet and comes from tapping ash trees, preferably the Flowering Ash Fraxinus ornus and the Narrow-leaf Ash Fraxinus angustifolia. It is mainly comprised of natural mannose, a fruit sugar with a very low glycaemic load of around 6. This makes it very useful for diabetics as a sweetener. D-mannose is also used to help people recovering from persistent bladder and urinary tract infection because of its affinity with E. coli. and a wide range of traditional use in medicine has been recorded. It is historically used in the making of frenette, a traditional fermented ash leaf drink.
If you’re very keen you can try to make your own manna by tapping the ash trees in the height of summer. This is a process not dissimilar to birch tapping. In the Mediterranean, this is done from 10th July through until September.
Choose a hot day. Make a cut in the trunk of the tree. A bitter, bright purple sap should immediately start to flow. On contact with the hot air it will crystallise and form manna.
In Scotland, where we have few hot summer days, pouring it into the fruit leather trays of your dehydrator can achieve a similar result! It can then be flaked and stored in an air-tight container.