Enjoy fresh-picked rhubarb!

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.

Rhubarb Crisp:

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.

Topping:

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!

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6 thoughts on “Enjoy fresh-picked rhubarb!

  1. Thank you for the information about rhubarb as a natural dye, I also had no idea that the leaves were their own mordant. The growing information is also handy. I wonder if it would do well in the ground here in Texas? Hmmm…as for the recipe, I may try it with an alternative sweetener and see how it goes!

    • I think folks either like or hate rhubarb…lol. You can easily adjust the sweetness to suit your taste, and the crumble topping is a nice ‘quickie’ dessert with any fresh fruit!

      Tibetans use the liquor from boiled rhubarb leaves as natural mordant that works best with animal fibres. Apparently, a pound of rhubarb leaves can mordant several pounds of fibre. Make sure you boil the leaves in a well-ventilated area, as the fumes can cause problems, and note that rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid, which is a poison, and should not be eaten.
      Source http://www.wildcolours.co.uk/html/plant_mordant.html#Rhubarb-mordant

  2. I need to experiment more with rhubarb and I think this crisp will be my first foray. My grandmother grew rhubarb in her backyard but I don’t think I ever tried it then. It still reminds me of her and the time I spent there when I was little.

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