Dear Pals, please turn to page 47 in your Kitchen Closeup books and hum along with me as I sing the praises of a humble but noble vegetable. Rhubarb. First of all, in today’s world, it would need to have have a totally different name thought up by teams of marketing people who worry about such things. “Rhu! Ick!” I can just see some gal in stilettos, clicking her perfectly gelled nails on the conference table. “Really, we think somebody is gonna buy a food product that starts with ROO?” And then ends with “Barb??” Could the name be any uglier, or any more evocative of nasty tasting things?”
It’s typically the first thing that comes back in your garden in the spring, and it comes back with primordial vengeance. Huge, tropical-looking leaves. Amazing blossoms that look like they might just come up and punch you in the face if you stand there long enough. You cut them off — the blossoms –to encourage growth in the stems, which is what you’re going to eat. At least, if I have anything to do with it, you will eat some. To me, rhubarb represents this lovely spirit of the earth, bursting out of the dirt with great energy and theater, just when you think there will never be another spring. Yes, there will be, and rhubarb is its robust herald. Harvesting a big bucket of those gorgeous pink stems in late April is an act of reaffirmation. You’ve done nothing about it all winter, except to cut the blossoms off in early April or late March. It takes care of itself, appreciates some extra water thrown its way, and reappears bigger and better every year in the same place from rhizomes beneath the surface. It’s free, in other words. It requires no packaging, no carbon products, no transportation. At our house, it gets no poisons or sprays. It’s good food.
Is there a downside to rhubarb? Only two little downsides: One, eating the leaves will make you sick. Two, it requires sweetening. What if you don’t like pink? I can’t imagine. But in that case, the green stems of some types are just as edible and fabulous as the pink ones. Rhubarb is also a FORGIVING ingredient. You can overcook it, fail to measure it, undersweeten it, whatever, and it’s just not a problem. Add more sweetener, you’re good.
And pals, as we mention on page 47 (you’re following along with Sister Lynne in your hymnals, right?), it’s a Leafy Green Vegetable. It’s kinda like celery in drag. Very fibrous, but if you sweeten it with something like my fave, Just Like Sugar, you can eat it all day and all night and not gain an ounce. Negligible calories. Throw some strawberries in with it, and you’ve still had negligible calories.
But yes, there is one last downside, which for some can actually be an upside: because it is so fibrous, it can have a somewhat laxative effect. So if you’re going to eat a bucket full, you might want to stay home for a bit. Just saying.
There are billions of great recipes for rhubarb stuff on the web, but they all contain tons of sugar or flour filler. I substitute #JustLikeSugar, cup for cup, and I thicken with psylllium instead of flour or tapioca.
When I harvest a bunch, I cook it down (page 47!) and stick it in the fridge in a big container.
Toss a few fresh strawberries and some sweetener in it, and you’ve got a swell snack or tweety bird meal.
Want pie? Who doesn’t want pie! Well, here’s my super-easy, fast pie. Buy a good quality frozen crust, fill it with cooked or uncooked rhubarb and uncooked strawberries, sprinkle psyllium (about 2 tbsp, but I never measure) and sweetener in, sprinkle cinnamon, and bake for maybe 20-30 minutes at about 425. No, that crust is not fabulous for you, but the entire filling is nothing but a celery-like vegetable! You can eat it! Beats the holy heck out of any of that crap you’re driving through for.
And is there anything better than the smell of a pie baking in your oven? Hmmmm? Maybe it’s the feeling that when you’re eating it or feeding it to your family, it’s good food.
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