Wednesday, May 9, 2007


Rhubarb is one of those things that you either love or hate. At least one, perhaps more, of my sisters loathes it. Understandable- back in the early 70's my mother was always on the look out for diabetic friendly foods. Rhubarb, sweetened with the nasty artificial sweeteners of the day, was one of those foods, and she served a lot of it. It was, in fact, pretty loathsome. Slimy and stringy.

However, while I developed an intense dislike for artificial sweeteners, I never developed an antipathy for rhubarb, and it's a HUGE favorite at our house. My husband and sons like to eat it raw, right out of the garden, and while I don't like it quite so fresh, I still enjoy it many ways. We've had it stewed, roasted, made into jam, muffins and pies. I've dried it, frozen it and canned it to eat later. I even tried making rhubarb ice cream. And I proved my "good mom-ness" by sending each of my sons a rhubarb cobbler kit- a bag containing some dried rhubarb, another bag containing the correct amount of sugar and flour for the pie, and directions calling for refrigerated crescent rolls as the crust. All they had to do was buy the rolls, add water and cook! (Did they make it? No. Crummy kids.)

I thought rhubarb was native to the US, but the Rhubarb Compendium tells me that the earliest written reference to Rhubarb was in 2700 BC in China. It also mentions that the name is derived from the Rha River, an early name for the Volga in Russia, because rhubarb grew along the banks. The Rhubarb Herbal at lists 3 kinds of rhubarb; Turkish, English and Monks. It describes the medicinal uses of the plant.

Finally, for those who REALLY enjoy rhubarb, there are the Rhubarb Festivals. The Wakefield Rhubarb festival in the UK is over for this year, but the festival in Intercourse PA is next weekend, May 18th and 19th. I'll have to put it on my schedule for next year; Intercourse is just a hop skip and jump over the mountain for me. Alas, I'll be in Kansas City that weekend.

I'm not the first to write about rhubarb for Weekend Herb Blogging- Writing at the Kitchen Table did a savory mutton in saffron and rhubarb sauce. Food Lover's Journey made a rhubarb streusel loaf, while Delectable Victuals did rhubarb scones. They all sound wonderful- especially the scones. While not a weekend herb blog entry, this rhubarb and custard sounds divine, and the photos are stunning.

This recipe for rhubarb tea sounds appealing, although it calls for strawberries and citrus along with the rhubarb. This tea is more basic, just rhubarb and sugar, with a strawberry for garnish if you desire.

I love my rhubarb plant- it takes little or no care from me, just a dressing of compost in the fall. I think it is beautiful- the long red stems, the deep green enormous leaves. I love the way they smell when I cut them up. Like my grapevine, it was planted by the previous owner of the house, and every time I harvest the stalks (by the way, the leaves are poisonous, eat only the stalks) I am so happy I bought a gardeners house!

Weekend Herb Blogging is being hosted by Up a Creek Without a PatL this weekend. I am terribly envious of her lovely visitor mentioned on the May 5 entry- go check this out! And, of course, see the round up of other Weekend Herb Bloggers.


Kalyn said...

We always had rhubarb growing when I was a kid too. Rhubard comes from China? I would have never guessed. This is one of those things from my childhood that always make me think of my mom.

Maggie said...

I'd love to know what your directions are for the cobbler made with dried rhubarb. I've never seen or heard of it dried but I have a food dehyrator that it just taking up cabinet space right now.