by Laura Steiger, Outreach Team
Photos courtesy Shrub Farm and Apple State Vinegar
Locally made in Bellingham by self-described foodies, Josh and Tomo Kramer, Shrub Farm is yet another brilliant new business crafting unique top-notch products that are not only delicious, but also good for our health and our planet.
Tomo earned her three year certificate in Japan as a nationally certified chef. She has an alcohol allergy and shrub is the best drink option for her free-spirited lifestyle. Josh studied food preservation and manufacturing process control at The University of California, Davis.
The Shrub Farm Story
Josh and Tomo Kramer discovered shrub on a visit to Japan when Tomo’s mother pulled a jar of purple liquid from her pantry, added water, and served what Josh described as “literally the most refreshing thing I’ve ever had.” It was a mixture of white vinegar and blueberries from Tomo’s mother’s yard.
literally the most refreshing thing I’ve ever had
Upon returning to their home in Maui, they experimented with recreating the refreshing beverage they enjoyed in Japan using locally available tropical fruits like guava, pineapple, and liliko’i (aka passion fruit). The results were fabulous. A bit like kombucha, but more crisp and clean.
Josh and Tomo opened Maui Shrub Farm and started selling at the Maui Farmers Market.
After their son was born, the couple moved to Bellingham, where Josh grew up, to be near family and to expand their business on the mainland. Initially named Cascade Shrub Farm, the business name has been simplified to Shrub Farm to avoid confusion between the Maui and Cascade brands.
Supporting Local Farmers
Shrub Farm continues to source ingredients from both Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest. “Our goal is to support local farmers. We directly source as much as we can from people we know and from farmers market vendors. Even the fruit we get from Maui, like the Hawaiian chili and hibiscus, we get directly from farmers we know,” said Josh.
Shrub Farm products are unique in that they are raw. Most other brands go through a heating process to add sugar and juice before bottling. Shrub Farm uses a cold-steeping process. Whole organic fruits soak in vinegar for one week before the mixture is strained and every living bacteria-rich drop of vinegar is squeezed from the fruit. The only nonorganic fruit used by Shrub Farm is Maui Gold pineapples.
The result is a highly potent fruit-flavored raw vinegar.
The cold steeping process pulls vitamins and enzymes from the fruit and preserves the essence of the living vinegar culture called the “mother,” which at 6% acidity is 20% stronger than most store brands.
The Versatile Uses of Shrub
Shrub is a versatile addition to the home pantry. Josh estimates that less than half of his customers use Shrub Farm as a cocktail mixer. The rest drink for it for the health benefits of the mother. Because you only need one-half ounce of shrub for an eight-ounce drink, it’s an economical way to get a healthful boost. And, shrub is great for kids too.
less than half of his customers use Shrub Farm as a cocktail mixer
I purchased a bottle of the Ginger & Hawaiian Chili before Christmas and used it to make a few cocktails, many mocktails, and used it in a salmon marinade mixed with roasted sesame oil and coconut aminos (it was delicious!). I used the remainder of the bottle to mix with sparkling water for a nightly after-dinner refresher and I am pleasantly hooked.
Josh’s favorite is Hibiscus & Orange. Mixed with still or sparking water (10:1 dilution), it is his go-to drink whenever he’s thirsty or needs an energy boost. He also uses it in this delicious Harvest Hibiscus Salad recipe.
Introducing Apple State Vinegar
As if Josh and Tomo weren’t busy enough, the couple launched a second brand in 2019: Apple State Vinegar.
The vinegar was already the base for all of their Shrub Farm products and people loved the flavor so much they decided to bottle it for sale separately. It is a raw apple cider vinegar made from 100% organic Washington state apples.
We created the brand with the 6% mission at the core.
Josh said he can’t bottle the vinegar fast enough to keep up with demand. “We had access to this great Washington state organic vinegar and now everyone can enjoy it, not just as shrub but however they like. We created the brand with the 6% mission at the core.”
Six percent of Apple State Vinegar profits are donated to nonprofit organizations dedicated to protecting ocean health. Josh and Tomo were inspired to give back by their years living in coastal communities and witnessing the impact people have had on Puget Sound and the devastating decline of resident orca populations.
Try a New Recipe
If you haven’t tried Shrub Farm or Apple State Vinegar, I hope you’ll give it a try soon and toast to your good health!
Choose from six unique Shrub Farm flavors—Ginger & Hawaiian Chili • Blueberry & Lemon • Pineapple & Sage • Hibiscus & Orange • Raspberry & Citrus • Ginger & Apple