The winter has begun to wind down and in the Midwest we anxiously await the first fruits of the season. Rhubarb, though often thought of as a fruit, is actually a vegetable and is one of those firsts of the season. Despite what the groundhog says we all start salivating in a hopeful response that pies, sauces and jams are on their way soon.
To my family rhubarb seems so ordinary and easily accessible. It reminds us of simpler times, when if we didn’t have any rhubarb in our own gardens or backyards, we would head to the neighbors and ask them for some, returning several days later with a rhubarb treat as a thank you.
My first memories of rhubarb were helping my grandma scoop out the antique or highly composted lamb manure to put on the rhubarb patch. It made the rhubarb thrive and produce the best tasting stalks. It is funny how in 2017 that would not be deemed food safe nor meet the GAP and Food Safety Modernization Act requirements. However, I never remember an illness stemming from her kitchen creations. My grandma and I would gather a basket full of rhubarb and head into her kitchen to whip up cream pies and sauces. Her pie remains one of my Dad’s favorites to this day.
The history of rhubarb dates back to 2700 B.C. in China where rhubarb was used for medicinal purposes. My brother says I need to be shorter rather than longer, so let’s fast forward through the Liang, Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties to 1837 when a new variety of rhubarb took the Victorian age by storm. The variety called Victoria was introduced in the same year as a new Queen, sharing the same name took the throne. It was easy to grow, sweet, robust and tender —perfect for jams, jellies, pies, custards and sauces. It even became the main ingredient in savory dishes of meat, cheese and stuffing. To this day, there is even a “rhubarb triangle” in England. In this special place, English farmers continue to force rhubarb early, cultivating and harvesting it in the dark. History.com states that 90% of the world’s forced sweet rhubarb is still produced there today. Rhubarb was introduced to the new world around 1800 and became popular in similar sweet and savory dishes. It continued to be popular in kitchens until after the World Wars. Then the hot ingredient became “Not.” The old fashioned sweet tart goodness has started a revival back in dishes across kitchens today. It can be hard to find unless you have a vintage patch in your garden, a rhubarb-loving neighbors or local store that stocks the crimson stalks.
Rhubarb thrives in northern climates of England and U.S. It loves and needs to go through a cold winter. In the spring when stalks get about 10 inches long, gently pull them from the plant. The leaves are poisonous with high levels of oxalic acid and should be cut off the stalks. I love to compost the leaves around the plant. It’s important to never harvest all of the stalks. Some stalks are needed to give the plant energy to make it through until next year’s harvest.
Rhubarb is often paired with strawberries, raspberries and other fruit. No matter what you add to compliment your next recipe with rhubarb, it’s sure to charm you and your family in the months ahead.
Eat Well & Healthy!
Old Fashioned Rhubarb Pudding Cake
common sense homesteading http://commonsensehome.com/
2 cups chopped rhubarb
1 3/4 cup sugar, divided
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup sifted flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2/3 cup boiling water
Cover the bottom of an 8 or 9-inch square or pie pan with fruit.
Mix 3/4 cup sugar, butter, baking powder, salt, extracts, milk and flour together (add a little more milk if it is too thick to pour); pour over fruit. Mix remaining sugar and cornstarch; sprinkle over mixture in pan. Pour boiling water over the top.
Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, a little longer for gluten free flours. Yield: 9 servings.
Notes: You make also substitute a gluten free flour blend such as Namaste Foods Gluten Free Flour Blend.
Josephine’s Rhubarb Cream Pie
1 pie crust, ready to bake
2 cups rhubarb, cut in small chunks
2 eggs, beaten
1 ½ c sugar
3 Tbsp. flour
½ tsp. nutmeg
1 Tbsp. butter
Preheat oven to 450°. Layer slices of chunks of rhubarb in pie crust. Mix eggs, sugar, flour and nutmeg well with either a blender, whisk, mixer or by hand. Pour custard over rhubarb. Bake for 10 minutes at 450°. Reduce temp to 350° and bake 45 minutes or until set.
Roasted Rhubarb & Beets marthastewart.com
Slices of rhubarb’s ruby stems
Halved baby beets
Salt and pepper
Chopped toasted walnuts
Toss rhubarb slices with olive oil and beets. Season with salt and pepper, and roast at 375 degrees until tender. Top with walnuts to finish.
Rhubarb Lamb Stew nytimes.com
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. kosher salt (I would reduce this to about ½ tsp. or less)
1 ½ cups plus 1 Tbsp. water
14 oz. rhubarb, trimmed and cut on the diagonal in 1/8-inch slices (2 cups)
2 lbs. boneless leg of lamb, cut in 1 1/4-inch cubes
3 medium-size cloves garlic, smashed, peeled and minced
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, chopped
Stir cumin and salt into 1 1/2 cups of water. Mound rhubarb in the center of a 2 1/2-quart soufflé dish with a tight-fitting lid. Pour cumin mixture around rhubarb. Cook, covered, at 100 percent power in a high-power oven for 7 minutes 30 seconds.
Remove from oven and uncover. Arrange lamb in layers around the inside rim of the dish. Sprinkle garlic over lamb. Re-cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring once.
While soup is cooking, stir remaining tablespoon of water into cornstarch. Remove dish from oven and uncover. Stir a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid into the cornstarch mixture. Stir the mixture and the cilantro into soup. Re-cover and cook for 2 minutes.
Remove from oven and uncover. Ladle into bowls; serve immediately.
Rhubarb Cream Bars cookinglight.com
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk
3 large eggs
5 cups (1/2-inch) sliced fresh or frozen rhubarb (unthawed)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (4 ounces) block-style fat-free cream cheese
1/2 cup (4 oz) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed
Mint sprigs (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°. To prepare crust, lightly spoon 1 1/2 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt in a bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Press mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
To prepare filling, lightly spoon 1/3 cup flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine 1/3 cup flour and 1 1/2 cups sugar in a large bowl; add milk and eggs, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Stir in rhubarb. Pour rhubarb mixture over crust. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until set. Cool to room temperature.
To prepare topping, place 1/2 cup sugar, cheeses, and vanilla in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Gently fold in whipped topping; spread evenly over baked custard. Cover and chill at least 1 hour. Garnish with mint sprigs, if desired.