Growing-up, we always enjoyed fresh-picked rhubarb from the garden! Most often we had a simple rhubarb sauce and occasionally served it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Rhubarb strawberry pie is a great combo!
Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum) is a cool season, perennial vegetable, grown for its leaf stalks that have a unique tangy taste used for pies and sauces. Rhubarb was first cultivated in the Far East more than 2,000 years ago. It was initially grown for medicinal purposes, and not until the 18th century was it grown for culinary use in Britain and America.
Rhubarb requires winter temperatures below 40 degrees F to break dormancy and stimulate spring growth; and summer temperatures averaging less that 75 degrees F for vigorous vegetative growth. The tops are usually killed in the first heavy freeze in the fall, but roots survive and produce new tops the following spring. While the stalks are edible, the leaves themselves are poisonous (they contain oxalic acid) and should NOT be eaten.
It is most commonly stewed with sugar or used in pies (strawberry rhubarb is very popular) and desserts, but it can also be put into savory dishes or pickled.
Rhubarb root produces a rich brown dye similar to walnut husks. It is used in northern regions where walnut trees do not survive. The oxalic acid in the leaves also act as a natural mordant.
Cut about one dozen stalks (about 4-cups) of rhubarb and remove leaf (great nitrogen source for the compost bin). Wash and cut stalks into about 1/2-inch pieces. Place about 4-cups (or more if desired) into baking casserole dish. Add 2-tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons tapioca (optional), 2/3-cup sugar and 1/2-teaspoon salt.
In another bowl, add/mix together 1/2-cup granulated sugar, 1/2-brown sugar, 2/3-cup flour, 2/3-cup old-fashioned oatmeal. Cut-in 7 tablespoons margarine or butter and with pie pastry blender, mix until coarse…should be crumbly.
Spread half of mixture on top of rhubarb (place the rest in a freezer bag and store for next time!). Bake in 350 degree F pre-heated oven for about 45-minutes, until topping is golden brown around edges and ‘fruit’ is bubbly. Cool on wire rack before serving!
Enjoy the weekend!