It’s spring, and gorgeous produce is beginning to appear in the markets — as well as my neighbor’s expansive backyard garden! I’ve been admiring his handsome rhubarb patch from afar and trying to muster up the courage to ask for some. We’re new to the neighborhood, you see.
Inspired by Tsh’s Q & A ‘Do you know the people in your neighborhood?‘ and the fascinating discussion about community that followed, I decided it was time to put my shyness aside and I knocked on his door. He generously offered me ‘carte blanche‘ on his patch–for the whole season. I was thrilled!
Rhubarb is my favorite early summer fruit; I just love it. As a child I dipped the pale pink stalks in sugar and munched them raw. As a teen I paired rhubarb with strawberries, baked the fruit into pies and sold them at my local farmers market. (for $5 dollars!!). Now, the options are endless and I usually run out of rhubarb long before I finish experimenting with new recipes.
I should mention, before we get any further, that rhubarb is actually a vegetable. Did you know? It can be used in both sweet and savory dishes, but my guess is that the majority of it ends up in a pie or a terrific crumble.
If you haven’t yet, pick up some rhubarb and discover what all the fuss is all about.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: I never buy my rhubarb. It seems there is always someone willing to have me come take it off their hands and every spring I have been blessed with offers from friends, family –and now neighbors. So before you buy rhubarb, ask around. Post a friendly request in your facebook status or post a note on your community church bulletin and you may be pleasantly surprised by what turns up on your doorstep.
Your second best option for sourcing rhubarb would be a farmers market, where it is guaranteed to be fresh and affordable. Local growers seem to know nearly everyone has a rhubarb plant or two in the backyard, and keep the prices reasonable.
Lastly, you can find rhubarb in some grocery stores, although how they manage to get away with charging $4-5 for a couple of stalks is beyond me.
Finally, fresh produce that doesn’t spoil within a few days of purchasing! I keep mine in the crisper drawer of my refrigerator for several weeks; it goes a little soft, but the flavor is still there. Since rhubarb is almost never eaten raw, it doesn’t matter if it ‘wilts’ — it’s going to be stewed into something lovely eventually.
Rhubarb freezes beautifully. Wash stalks, chop into 1/2 – 1 inch pieces and pack into freezer bags to be enjoyed year round.
You’d be hard pressed to find another fruit or vegatable as user friendly as rhubarb. It has no seeds to deal with, lovely skin that brings vibrant color to dishes, and it is easy to chop. I let my four-year-old son chop alongside me as the rhubarb lends itself well to knife skills for beginners.
Cleaning is a cinch. Remove the leaves, if still attached, and safely discard them as they are poisonous. (They are fine to compost.) Trim ends; wash and dry. That’s it! Your rhubarb is now ready to be used. It makes up for the pesky dirt, laden leek, doesn’t it?
From juicy pies and tender cakes, to brilliantly colored sorbets and delicate mousses, rhubarb has been making a comeback, even in gourmet kitchens. Visit TasteSpotting and search ‘rhubarb’ for an eye-popping and surprisingly diverse array of rhubarb creations. It’s enough to make you pucker!
I stew mine gently with honey into a simple compote, then spoon the sauce over pancakes, yogourt or custard. Other favorite uses are in jam (look for a recipe coming soon), crisps and this recipe from my mother’s old and tattered cookbook…
Recipe: Rhubarb Upside-Down Cake
Here’s my current favorite rhubarb dessert. It’s not much too look at, but between the cake’s tender crumb and the tangy compote-like topping, it’s a winner. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for a seasonal treat like no other. Be sure to read through the recipe and have all the ingredients assembled before you start.
Makes a 9-inch round cake.
For the Rhubarb bottom:
- 3 1/2 cups rhubarb, washed, dried and chopped in 3/4-inch chunks
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 teaspoons orange rind (or lime)
- 1 tablespoon butter
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a round 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper and butter pan thoroughly. Mix together first four ingredients and pour into pan. Dot with butter and place in a preheated oven. Cook only as long as it takes you to put the cake batter below together.
For the Cake: In the bowl of a mixer combine all together:
- 1 cup cake flour, sifted
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2/3 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup soft unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
With the paddle attachment, beat ingredients for two minutes, scraping down sides as necessary. Then add:
- 1 egg
Beat for another minute.
Pour batter over rhubarb and return everything to oven. Bake 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan. Place a plate or cake platter on top of the pan and re-invert cake onto the platter. Remove tin and peel off parchment. Serve warm.
Serves 6-8 generously.
Rhubarb Recipe Round-Up
- Rhubarb Daiquiri :: Under the High Chair
- Simple Norwegian Rhubarb Cake :: Cooking Books
- Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble :: Gotta Little Space
- Rhubarb Baked Oatmeal :: My Kitchen Addiction
- Strawberry-Rhubarb Shortcake :: Pete Bakes!
- Rhubarb Sorbet :: Simply Recipes
Our Facebook fans were divided in their love for rhubarb. What about you? Do you have a favorite rhubarb recipe? Please share!