Did you ever wonder where your Ash Wednesday ashes come from?  Traditionally they come from burning the branches from the previous year's Palm Sunday, but these days the ashes that mark your forehead on this first day of Lent might be from right here in Central Florida. Read about 84-year-old Ralph Higginbotham's family ash-making business in this Orlando Sentinel article, which also includes a good explanation of Ash Wednesday and Lent.

Under Higginbotham's direction, the family makes several hundred pounds of the smooth, black dust from sabal palms every year. He makes the ashes by slowly roasting palm trees in steel drums.

He uses no flammable liquids in the roasting and no pigments to darken the finished product.

A single 25-foot palm, cut and left to cure in the sun for two years, will yield about 5 pounds of ash. After grating and sifting, the ash goes off to suppliers in California, Illinois and Rhode Island, who sell it to churches and dioceses across the country.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, February 25, 2009 at 6:41 am | Edit
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