Long Live Rhubarb

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rhubarb leafRhubarb, morel mushrooms and ramp (a delicacy I have yet to learn to appreciate) all arrive in early spring, so we are not without fresh food before the growing season begins in our gardens.  Rhubarb is my favorite, but that may be because I have yet to ever spot a morel growing in the wild. Rhubarb is full of antioxidants, as well as calcium and fiber.  By itself it would be classified as a health food but that classification would have to be lost in light of all the sugar used to make it edible. I have heard of people who eat it by itself raw. I’d have to lump those people with the ones who love eating whole habanero peppers.

If you haven’t had rhubarb prepared properly, you have probably sworn that you would never eat it again because of the tartness. It is a real pucker producer! The leaves of the plant are actually poisonous, and based on the sourness of the stalks, you might guess they are as well, but with the right preparation, they’re delicious!

rhubarb plantFor more than 30 years, I’ve picked enough rhubarb for our family from the same two plants and still had extra to share with friends.  The day I bought these two plants, I took my four preschoolers to a plant nursery on a hot spring day. Even amidst rambunctious preschoolers, toddlers running to and fro, and much perspiration, it was a fun time.  We walked out with tomato, pepper and cabbage plants, lots of flowers and our rhubarb, which has given us many delicious pies, rhubarb jam and rhubarb crisps for all these years.

If you are one who says they will never eat rhubarb again, try this recipe.  In my second book I have a recipe for a rhubarb bar that is also delicious (not health food).  If you can get the filling just right, you can store it in the freezer and you will have rhubarb jam.  Take it off the heat while it’s still a little thin.  It will thicken as it cools.

rhubarb pie

When I make the topping for this dessert I double the recipe and freeze half.  I then have it ready-made to put with rhubarb or an apple filling.

Rhubarb Crisp

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Toss together:
4 cups rhubarb, cut into one inch pieces*
*Note:  Never use rhubarb leaves because they are poisonous! Use only the stalk.
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup flour

Place in a 9-inch square baking dish that has been sprayed with a vegetable spray.

In either a food processor or using a pastry blender mix:
¾ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup all purpose flour
½ cup rolled oats
¾ tsp. cinnamon
¾ tsp. nutmeg
1/3 cup chilled butter.

When pieces are about the size of peas spread over rhubarb mixture. Bake for 30 minutes or until rhubarb feels soft when pierced with a fork.