Rhubarb: Think Spring

As spring flowers awake, we are reminded that despite the chaos of today, spring has arrived in all its hopeful glory. One of the first edibles in spring is the mighty, versatile and inexpensive rhubarb. Often called the “pie fruit”, rhubarb is actually a perennial vegetable. While the leaves are poisonous and must be removed, the stalks are packed with vitamins. It is a known antioxidant. For centuries Rhubarb has been used in Chinese medicine for the treatment of digestive issues and hyperlipidemia. While we are most familiar with the sweet applications of rhubarb in pies, crisps, jams, and so on, in Middle Eastern cuisine, rhubarb is often used as a tart counterpoint in rich dishes like lamb stew. We are lucky to live in rural Ontario because just about everyone knows someone with a rhubarb patch. And, since rhubarb will produce from early spring until late fall if regularly pulled and seed pods removed, this means we can easily access free or very inexpensive food. This year in particular, we should be sharing this bounty and thinking creatively about its immediate use and preservation for next winter through drying, freezing or canning.

Three ways to expand your rhubarb repertoire include roasting, juice and jelly making:

Roasted Rhubarb:
A 25 minute roast (350 degrees) of rhubarb tossed with sugar, cornstarch, and a touch of liquid (juice or water) produces a jammy-like accompaniment to ice cream, a pound cake or to oatmeal. It freezes well.

Rhubarb Juice:
A fantastic refreshing drink. Add sparkling water (or spike it if you like), a snip of mint and some ice. The juice freezes well or can be preserved. The chopped rhubarb is cooked briefly in water and then put into a dampened jelly bag, cheese cloth lines sieve. Let the juices drip naturally for at least two hours. You can sweeten the juice with simple syrup, honey or stevia. The beautiful pink juice is perfect for spring and summer.

Rhubarb Jelly:
If you’re extracting rhubarb juice, why not transform it into a beautiful, tasty jelly that is wonderful on toast, as an accompaniment to cheese or as a glaze for meats or tarts. Pictured here are gifts made for wedding guests.

As spring approaches, rethink your relationship with rhubarb. It is healthy, abundant, and extremely versatile. For recipe details, contact me at: martha@thevalleypreservery.ca

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