Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ode to Rhubarb – It’s a Vegetable

One of the first signs of spring in the Midwest is rhubarb popping through the ground. You see, the reason I like rhubarb is because botanically it is a vegetable. But if you are going to eat rhubarb, you gotta cover it with sugar and a healthy dose of butter doesn’t hurt either. It’s vegetable that you get to eat for dessert. Vegetable for dessert – life is good.

It wasn’t until I moved to the Midwest that I became acquainted with rhubarb. It didn’t grow in the South, but hey we got watermelon (but that’s another blog).

There are two basic types of rhubarb, green and red. Personally, I prefer the red. If your neighbor is giving you green rhubarb, take it. Rhubarb has a very sour taste and astringent flavor. Therefore the need for sugar or some other fruit, like strawberries.

Midwesterners say strawberries are a perfect complement to rhubarb. I don’t know if that is because they both show up in the spring or because you have got to put something with rhubarb. There is strawberry-rhubarb jam – a classic that always makes an appearance at the county fair. According to folklore, rhubarb was added to stretch the strawberries.

There appears to be an endless supply of rhubarb recipes –

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie -

I understand from my Midwestern friends that this recipe is a new thing. That is, not something they ate as children. It’s a good pie, so I say, “that’s too bad”.

Rhubarb Custard Pie - My friend makes this pie and it’s good!

Apple Rhubarb Chutney

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups rhubarb, diced
½ cup water
¾ cup sugar
½ cup apple cider vinegar
1 tart apple, such as Granny Smith, diced
1 – 1 inch piece of a cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
½ cup raisins
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon white pepper

1. Heat oil and sauté onions, garlic and ginger until transparent. Add everything else and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Mixture should be thick not soupy.

2. Mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for several months. I can’t say that I have tried this one, but my friend says it’s great with pork or chicken. For those of you who prefer something a little more savory or with fewer calories, give this one a try.

Donna Handley’s Rhubarb Cake

1 box (18.25 ounces) yellow or white cake mix
4 cups sliced rhubarb
1 cups sugar
2 cups whipping cream

1. Mix rhubarb and sugar. Set aside.

2. Prepare cake according to package directions. Pour into a greased 9 X 13-inch. Sprinkle rhubarb over top of cake batter.

3. Pour whipping cream over top. Bake at 350°F for 1 hour.

This time of year rhubarb is quiet easy to find in the Midwest. Check your neighbor’s backyard, you may find a steady supply (aka, free). If you are unable to find rhubarb in the neighborhood, head out to your local farmers market.

Thanks for reading about rhubarb. Take a stroll through your neighbor’s garden or the local farmers market and pick up a bunch. I gotta go and get another piece of rhubarb cake. If I eat enough, I can get full serving of vegetables.

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