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Not surprising, the Oxford English Dictionary‘s “word of the day” is “shamrock,” that powerhouse plant with leaves in both the secular and religious worlds. The most interesting part of OED’s entry is its culinary overview of the shamrock, beginning in the 16th century with basic meadow munching.

Here are a few select quotes from the OED entry:

  • 1577 STANYHURST Descr. Irel. viii. 28/1 in Holinshed, Water cresses, which they terme shamrocks, rootes and other herbes they feede vpon.
  • 1622 J. TAYLOR (Water-P.) Sir Greg. Nonsence Wks. 1630 II. 4/2 Whilst all the Hibernian Kernes in multitudes Did feast with Shamerags stew’d in Vsquebagh. [Note: Vsquebagh is whiskey.]
  • 1627 J. TAYLOR (Water-P.) Armado C1b, Their fare being many times shamrookes, oaten-bread, beanes and butter-milke.
  • 1682 PIERS Descr. West-Meath (1770) 121 Butter, new cheese, and curds and shamrocks, are the food of the meaner sort all this season.

Then there’s my favorite, from one Caleb Threlkeld in 1726, who adopts a righteous tone about St. Patrick’s Day, shamrocks, and drinking:

  • This Plant is worn by the People..upon..St. Patrick’s Day. It being a current Tradition, that by this Three Leafed Grass, he emblematically set forth to them the Mystery of the Holy Trinity. However that be, when they wet their Seamar-oge, they often commit Excess in Liquor, which is not a right keeping of a Day to the Lord.

Photo by tracyhunter