Rhubarb

Is it only spring still?

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Going away for part of the winter messes with my sense of the seasons – the proper order of them and what to expect next.  After being in the tropics on two continents – humid beaches, sweaty cities and snow falling at home in between  – I feel like it should be fall or something.  Spring takes forever to get here, then keeps slipping back into winter (oh April snowstorms) and slipping forward into summer (oh happy May / June days).  I guess the seasons are messy too.

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For us, the first fruit of the year comes in the form of rhubarb.  Thick stalks – strawberry red and apple green – shoot up sporting oversized leaves that unfold suddenly, rapidly, grotesquely.

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This is more free food.  Someone planted it decades ago, and it continues to give itself freely.

It’s sour, but we learn to like it.  With enough sugar, some oats, nuts and butter, we’ve made rhubarb crumble.

With cornmeal and egg, I make Nigella’s rhubarb cake.  This is good, very good.  Moist, delicious, addictive.

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With dried apricots plumped in warm water, then baked in the oven with sugar, cloves and cinnamon, it becomes a luscious rich compote to eat swirled into yogurt.

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With tequila and lime, yay – it’s time for a spring cocktail.  You can’t go wrong here.  This will make your afternoon sing.

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Heaving its abundance on us, we are urged to make use of it.  Yet so quickly those fat flower stalks rise up – strong, bold, unstoppable.

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We cut them off, of course.  We want more stalks and they’ll make them for awhile.  2 months maybe.  Let’s wait and see.

The darling of early spring, rhubarb lifts our palates, elevates our days with a vitamin C kick.  Why not put it away for a winter day?  You can freeze it easily in chunks.  Then use in smoothies, oatmeal or pie.

Or… cocktails.

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Rhubarb Cocktail

Make the rhubarb-infused syrup ahead of time and have it in the fridge at-the-ready for springtime cocktail cravings.

1 oz good tequila

1 oz rhubarb syrup (recipe below)

1/2 ounce lime juice (1 key lime or 1/2 a regular lime)

Put 2 ice cubes in a martini glass.  Add tequila, rhubarb syrup and lime juice.  Stir.

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Rhubarb Syrup

3/4 lb rhubarb (about 4 stalks) cut into small chunks

1/2 cup good sugar

1 cup water

Put the chopped rhubarb in a pot with the sugar and water.  Bring to a boil, then simmer on low for 8 minutes.  Mash the rhubarb and simmer for 15 more minutes.  Strain, pour into a jar and cool.

It’ll keep for at least a week in the fridge and make you quite a few unforgettable drinks…

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P.S. Save the strained sweetened rhubarb pulp to use in oatmeal, muffins or yogurt…

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5 thoughts on “Rhubarb

  1. If you want to save it for a winter day — fill a pot with it and give enough water to get it started (not covered — maybe 1/2). Boil and strain, then add a few cups of sugar, and 1 can of orange juice concentrate. Reheat to boiling and seal in sterilized jars. A recipe from a Mennonite cookbook that has served me well for several years. Use 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 – water, syrup and “dilution of choice” — 7up, alcoholic, whatever 🙂 When asked, enjoyers think its peach juice!! Rich in all the nutrients rhubarb is famous for and lovely in the midst of winter 🙂

  2. Did you ever hear of chilled Rhubarb soup for dessert?

    Mark Bittman has a very nice recipe for a chilled dessert soup: Cut 2 lbs. rhubarb into 2-inch lengths, put it in a sauce pan, add 1/2 the zest from an (organic) orange along with all the juice from that orange, add 1 cup sugar and 1 qt water and cook until for 10-15 minutes, until the rhubarb is broken down. Chill it.

    When you serve it, mix in the other half of the orange zest and plunk some yogurt in the center of each bowl. We use cultured coconut milk.

    It’s a winner!

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