Valley Bounty: Shrub

We’re on the other side of the Winter Solstice and New Year’s, but we still have months ahead of us before the snow melts for good in the spring. Fortunately, farmers throughout the Valley preserved last year’s bounty and there are plenty of opportunities to find a local taste of summer during this cold season.

Sam and Charlotte Perkins, the owners of Bug Hill Farm in Ashfield, keep the taste of summer alive in their shrubs. Shrubs, as I learned during a recent conversation with the pair, are ‘drinking vinegars’ in which fruit is preserved using a combination of sugar and vinegar. “It’s basically a burst of fruit flavor to put in something like a cocktail,” Charlotte explained. The Perkins make shrubs using a wide variety of fruit, including strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, pears, and more. And its use isn’t limited to cocktails. Charlotte explained that shrub can be used to jazz up plain yogurt for breakfast, as a base in a salad dressing for lunch, in a pork marinade for dinner, then over ice cream for dessert. “It’s really fun,” Charlotte said, “to see people who have really good culinary expertise, seeing their minds work as they taste the shrub and consider what they’ll do with it.”

“We didn’t know anything about shrubs until three and a half years ago,” Sam explained. “We were looking for some land to build a little house and have a big garden. We ended up looking at this berry farm in Ashfield, Bug Hill Farm, and we fell in love with it.” The previous owner of the farm introduced the couple to shrub production, and they dove into the new world of growing and preserving berries. The two were experienced gardeners, “but we didn’t know all that much about caring for berries,” Charlotte said. She remembers how long it took to prune their berry bushes that first year. “It was pretty funny in the beginning. We’d go out and do it together, asking each other, ‘I don’t know, what do you think? Should we cut this branch?’ We’ve got it down much better now.”

If you’re new to shrubs, homemade craft cocktails can be a great first taste. The Perkins shared a few of their favorites. Give them a try for a splash of local fruit during the winter!

Craft Cocktails
Recipes by Sam and Charlotte Perkins

Winter Warmer:
1 oz. Bug Hill Farm Spiced Pear shrub
2 oz. bourbon or rum
Slice of lemon
4 oz. warm water

Black and Blue Beauty:
3/4 oz Bug Hill Farm Black and Blue Shrub
1 1/2 oz Gin
3/4 oz lime juice
Top with club soda

Raspberry Zinger Mocktail:
Fresh mint
Ginger beer
Bug Hill Farm Raspberry Mint Shrub

Noah Baustin is the Communications Coordinator at CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)