Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Discovering rhubarb

I have a confession to make: I am a rhubarb neophyte. I have no childhood memories of eating Grandma's rhubarb pie. In fact, I can't even remember when I first tasted anything rhubarb -- it left that little of an impression on me. While I've been neutral to rhubarb, my husband doesn't like it -- too tart, he tells me.

But we have several well established plants growing along the barnyard fence and it seemed a shame to let such a prolific and loyal perennial go to waste, especially when it's packed with so much goodness including calcium, magnesium and potassium.

Author Catherine Newman (a self-professed rhubarb fan) even went so far as to describe it as, "celery dolled up in a rosy silk evening gown, all luster and shine."

Poetic praise, indeed. So this year, I decided to introduce some "puckery pleasure" (another Newman phrase) to my kitchen.

It seems the goats are already a fan of the stalks. Not the leaves, though -- they're toxic.




While rhubarb is traditionally paired with strawberries, I wanted to be a bit of an in-season purist and serve rhubarb on its own. We decided on a crumble as we're big on crumble here (and truth be told, I was out of pie crusts and unlike blogger Mama Pea who's a whiz bang at making homemade crust, I haven't mastered that skill yet.)




In keeping with the eat-local inspired dinner theme, we collected some eggs from the hens for omelettes and asparagus from the garden. Right now, we only have three very small patches of asparagus tucked into the perennial flower beds -- enough for only a few meals -- so I knew this harvest would be one to savour.


With every bite, my taste buds tingled with sheer delight. The kids declared dinner "awesome" -- even the asparagus, and I thought it would be a hard sell. But it was so sweet and flavourful, without a trace of woody texture or bitterness.


While we've been on the farm for almost two years, I still get a thrill out of this kind of true local eating. Collecting food from our own backyard and eating it still warm from the sun gives me such an intense feeling of pleasure and satisfaction.

Meals like this one, simple as it is, make all the hard work worthwhile. It makes me hungry to do more of this, to expand the garden, to preserve more food, to eat locally year-round.

It also made me hungry for some of this.

While my husband still thinks rhubarb is tart, he managed to finish off his serving. The kids simply devoured it and have since helped me make more crumble.

So for those of you who have long praised this humble vegetable and eagerly await its early appearance, I get it now.

And I'll be joining you next spring.

18 comments:

Mama Pea said...

Your rhubarb plants are beautiful! Yes, it does contain all kinds of vitamins and minerals that are good for us. Old-timers claim it's a spring tonic, too. (Although just what a spring tonic does to you I'm not sure.) I love, love, love rhubarb!

My favorite rhubarb recipe book is "Life's Little Rhubarb Cookbook: 101 Rhubarb Recipes" by Joan Bestwick. You might be able to find it at your library if you want more rhubarb recipes than you'll be able to make in a lifetime!

Erin said...

Fiona, you have me in stitches over the rhubarb - and Mama Pea knows what I am talking about! See, I grew up in Minnesota and know that any northern gardener is judged by the size of their stand of rhubarb - but I never "got it"! And now that I live in the South (don't grow it here), the North's fascination with Rhubarb takes on a pretty amusing light. I never tried it, and don't understand for the life of me why anyone would eat something that you have to disguise with 10 other ingredients, LOL! I always said I want to grow it when I move back to MN, if only because it is so pretty, but I was "going to eat it plain"! Everybody laughed. So thank you, for showing me that I'm not the only one who found it a little odd the way it is always prepared! Good on you for trying it out and not monkeying with it, I have a renewed respect for Rhubarb - hear that, Mama Pea? LOL!

Fiona said...

Mama Pea -- thanks! I'm thinking about moving them and establishing a proper patch somewhere -- add that to the to do list! Who knew there were 101 Rhubarb recipes? I'm thinking about trying an apple rhubarb chutney -- sounds yummy!!!

Erin -- now Mama Pea's enthusiasm for rhubarb becomes clear!!! I should point out that while there wasn't 10 other ingredients, there was a hearty helping of sugar in this crumble to cut the tartness but it was yummy all the same. As for my waistline... lol!

Mama Pea said...

Dear Erin - This all just goes to prove that you were NOT born and raised in Minnesota. You were found in an okra patch in the South somewhere and taken in by a kindly Minnesotan family because they felt sorry for you. ;o)

Thistledog said...

Sure does take a lot of sweetning to make it un-puckery enough to eat but oo-la-la, what a taste sensation!

Lovely pictures, thank you for sharing,

Fiona said...

Mama Pea - hahahahahahahahaha!!!

Thistledog - thank you for visiting :)

Katidids said...

I'd not had rhubarb till we moved back to Ind. DH loves it cookeed like applesauce with bit of sugar mixed in. He hides it from others. My plants are new this year so, I wait and find a good deals and make huge batches of "rhubarb sauce" and can it.

Elizabeth said...

Your garden looks terrific. I'm glad you have discovered just how great rhubarb is.

Erin said...

MamaPea, LOLOLOL! Found in an Okra patch! Actually, if there's one thing I understand even LESS than Rhubarb, it's Okra! Eeeew, slimy! And people need to deep fry it to make it edible?!! Now I don't know where I'm from, sniff, sniff!

MaineCelt said...

Ah, Rhubarb--worthy of all waxing rhapsodic!

I get my love of rhubarb from my grandmother, who ate it nearly every day, usually stewed with a bit of sugar as part of lunch or supper.

She loved rhubarb so much, in fact, that when she was in her final decline at the age of 92, she had her home health care nurses go out to the garden, gather all the stocks, slice them up, bag them, and put them in the freezer. After her death, when my mother and I went to clean out the farmhouse, we laughed uproariously upon opening the freezer door. It was packed entirely with bright pink bags, each ready to be taken out and stewed. That was my grandmother: an industrious farmwoman and rhubarb lover 'til the end!

I sent MamaPea a recipe for my favourite rhubarb coffee cake a while back. (I'm a purist and never add strawberries, but I do permit the addition of ginger.) Maybe I'll write up a post about it so you can see it too!

Heidi said...

There really is nothing so good as fresh, local food is there! :)

Heidi said...

Oh and I am really hoping MaineCelt does blog that rhubarb coffee cake recipe, sounds yummy!

Mama Pea said...

MaineCelt - Please DO write a post about your rhubarb coffee cake! It deserves to be "published" and shared with AAALLLLLLL the rhubarb lovers out there!

Fiona said...

Katidids -- Ha! My DH hides things from others too... tho it's usually homemade cookies! I like the idea of cooking it like applesauce. And rhubarb sauce? mmmm....

Elizabeth -- thanks! It's a start, at least. And you would know! For you rhubarb fans out there, Elizabeth is at http://www.savor-the-rhubarb.com :)

Erin -- I've never tried okra either though I think I've eaten it in some kind of vegetarian stew. I think I liked it... maybe I'll add it to the to-try list and write a blog post about that culinary adventure.

MaineCelt -- what a lovely memory of your grandmother -- thank you so much for sharing it! And yes, PLEASE do share your coffee cake recipe :) The ginger addition sounds yummy!

Heidi -- you are so right -- local food is just amazing for so many reasons :)

laura said...

Am I the only one who wants to know what you put in your omelette? I have too many eggs and not enough imagination!

Fiona said...

Laura - lol! This one was really simple... just some sauteed onions and mushrooms topped with some chopped green pepper, shredded cheddar cheese and fresh herbs.
But, you've given me an idea for another post -- maybe we could each post a favourite (or two or three) egg recipes and share it... because we've all had too many eggs and not enough imagination!!!

Kim said...

I'm going to have to grow some rhubarb if it will grow in Oklahoma. It looks wonderful! Love the blog.

Fiona said...

Hi Kim, thanks for visiting! Perhaps if you could find a heat-tolerant, early maturity variety, you too could grow it...

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