Ah, rhubarb. Firstfruits of spring in the North. Technically it’s not a fruit but a perennial vegetable but, because it’s used as a fruit, that’s usually how it’s known.
It’s a humble plant, snubbed by some folks. Not good enough? Oh, yes. Definitely good enough. Easy to grow—just transplant a root—and easy to maintain, rhubarb is the earliest edible perennial of the spring, right up there with asparagus.
The leaves are poisonous, but go fine into the compost pile. Just reach in and grab hold of a stalk close to the root, and give a little tug. Cut off the leaf, cut off the root, and the resulting stalk is similar to celery, but with a lot more pucker power.
Choose stalks hidden lower in the plant rather than pulling the more vertical central ones. This is one plant you can’t pluck bald—too much sunshine and heat hitting the core may kill it.
There are many things you can do with rhubarb, but one of the easiest and most delicious is:
3 cups chopped rhubarb
1 1/4 cup sugar (or 1 cup honey)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Place in a heavy bottomed pot and turn on low. Stir well, then frequently as the juice comes out of the rhubarb and mixes with the other ingredients. Simmer until thickened, a few minutes, then remove from heat. Add:
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
Press about half the crumbs firmly into a 9×9 baking pan. Spread the rhubarb filling over the crumbs. Sprinkle the remaining crumbs on top, and bake for 30-35 minutes until the top is golden brown.
Delicious served with vanilla ice cream!
Have you ever eaten rhubarb? What’s your favorite?