Spotlight on... Wild Irish Foragers. What the hell is a "shrub"?

Posted by Tara Whelan on

"In the wilds of Co.Offaly is a small 5th generation family farm. Yes, it is small, the gates might not hang perfectly, the hedgerows are pretty wild, and grass grows in the middle of the lanes, unusual wild flowers spring up hither and thither as they wish to, but 5 generations in, we feel a deep connection with this land.

In April 2013 we decided to share our love for this land and its bounty and started a small business called The Wild Irish Foragers & Preservers. From the farm we personally hand harvest Wild Rosehips, Elderberries, Damsons, Elderflowers, Gorse, Rowanberries, Sloes, Spring Nettles, Blackberries, Honeysuckle, Goosegrass, Clovers to name but a few!. From these incredible, natural wild Irish ingredients we make Syrups, Sauces, Fruit Cheeses, Jellies, Pontack and our newest product, Shrubs.

We strive to recreate a taste of the past, recipes that were used in a bygone era. Wild food used in this way is part of Irish Food Heritage, a simple taste that has been almost forgotten. When we started out we went to Farmers Markets etc. and were amazed at the level of interest in our products and the amount of people who were so thrilled to taste a reminder of many of their childhoods."

Sharon Greene, Wild Irish Foragers and Preservers

So what's a "shrub"? I get asked this every week at Killruddery!!

The name shrub comes not from the garden but from the Arabic “shrub”, meaning drink, and “sharbat”, a Hindi word for an aromatic syrup made from fruit or herb and flower extracts, that is stirred into water and served over ice. The English term Shrub first appears in print in 1747 in London’s Gentleman’s Magazine referring to a fancy libation.

There is some speculation that these thirst quenchers were first sipped in the hot climes of the Middle East, but wherever they originated we know for certain that they enjoyed great popularity in the USA beginning in colonial times while wild shrubs have been made in Ireland for hundreds of years.

Shrubs are a wonderful addition to every cook’s compendium. They add zing to salad dressings and sauces and will surely inspire more creative dishes.

  • Try drizzled over goat’s cheese
  • Splashed over ice cream, use in meringue making
  • Add to a good oil to make a dressing
  • As a refreshing drink mix with soda or sparkling water- 1 part shrub to 3 or 4 parts water (to taste!)
  • Flavour mayonnaise or hummus
  • Shrubs can also be used in cocktail making- a really interesting and unique ingredient!
  • Added to sparkling wine or spirits
  • Use as “cheese shots” on your cheeseboard (1:1 water)
  • Taken with water as needed for individual health benefits e.g.: Blackberry for digestion, Dandelion for detox, Honeysuckle to aid sleep

Wild Irish Forager shrubs are made using a local organic probiotic Apple Cider Vinegar from The Apple Farm, Co. Tipperary.

The Wild Irish Forager Shrub Range:

  • Wild Blackberry
  • Honeysuckle
  • Rowanberry
  • Elderberry
  • Gorse Petal
  • Dandelion Petal
  • Clover Petal
  • Hawthorn
  • Blackthorn Sloe
  • Wild Rosehip
  • Elderflower
  • Haw & Ginger

I'll be posting some Wild Irish Forager Shrub and Syrup recipes soon, as well as expanding the range with Sharon's lovely "pots"- beautiful wild food accompaniments and preserves, perfect for cheese, meat and charcuterie. 

Browse them here!

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