Rhubarb

Peculiar word.
rhu·barb [roo-bahrb] noun

1. any of several plants belonging to the genus Rheum, of the buckwheat family, as R. officinale, having a medicinal rhizome, and R. rhabarbarum, having edible leafstalks.

2. the rhizome of any medicinal species of this plant, forming a combined cathartic and astringent.

3. the edible, fleshy leafstalks of R. rhabarbarum, used in making pies, preserves, etc.

4. Slang . a quarrel or squabble.

Quirky flavor.
It has a notably tart, tangy flavor. Nothing a little sugar can’t relax!

Interesting structure.
Rhubarb looks like red celery with elephant ear leaves. It even has the crunch and stringiness of celery – traits that mellow on the stovetop or in the oven.

Culinary curiosity.
Rhubarb is a vegetable with a wealth of “fruity” applications. It can be used in pies, cakes, compotes, beverages, tarts, stuffing, turnovers, chutneys, cobblers, sauces, soups, blintzes, shortcakes, cupcakes, sundaes, sorbets, bars, custards, salads, and ice cream. Need I go on?

Seasonal treat.
I wish I could grow rhubarb in my Southern garden, but it nearly impossible to grow here. Summers are too hot and winters are too mild.

When I saw it in the grocery store today, it brought back fond memories of the rhubarb my grandparents and parents used to grow when I was a kid in Wisconsin. Of course, I had to buy some. I knew if I didn’t buy it now, I’d have to wait another year.

I was very impressed when the young man behind the register knew what it was. Though, he did hesitate and asked me not to tell him… said he wanted to try to remember what it was on his own.

After picking up my once-a-year rhubarb fix, I thumbed through a book of my grandma’s recipes. She and my grandpa grew a LOT of rhubarb, so I had several good recipes to choose from. I carefully reviewed my choices and decided to bake Grandma’s rhubarb crunch. Nothing fancy, but a timeless classic that is soooo good right out of the oven topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Here’s the recipe written in my grandmother’s hand.

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4 thoughts on “Rhubarb

  1. Great post, Julie. Thanks for the interesting details about this unique vegetable.

    Since you are familiar with rhubarb, being from Wisconsin and all, you probably know the ease of putting it “up”: Wash it; slice it; and freeze it. I found that buying the frozen form during off seasons works great. There isn’t a lot of difference in taste or texture.

    My specialty is Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. It’s a very basic recipe but when coupled with a good homemade crust, “Mama Mia!” Bake it in a cast iron skillet and it’s even better. I discovered this by accident one summer.

    • Yes. Rhubarb is a no-fuss vegetable. (I want to say fruit!) That Strawberry Rhubarb pie sounds fantastic… and baking it in a cast iron skillet puts it over the top, I’m sure! I need to try a pie in a skillet some day. Thanks for the idea 🙂

  2. While reading the recipe, I couldn’t help but think, “How many people reading this know what oleo is?” 🙂 Many of my mother’s handwritten recipes contain the word oleo. She and Dad still have a large crop of rhubarb in their garden.

    • I thought the same thing (about the oleo)? I guess people who don’t know what it is will have to Google it 🙂

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