Monday, April 20, 2009
It's Festival Time -- Rhubarb In Its Glory
Michael Pollan would be proud of all you rhubarb lovers out there -- its something all of our Grandmas had in her backyard and she'd recognize it in an instant. And we all ate it at one time or another -- and decided at a very early age if we love it, or hate it. Rhubarb, technically, is a vegetable and grows celery-like stalks that are harvested, chopped, and cooked in a variety of ways. Pie is the most popular manner as the sugar sweetens the bitter taste of rhubarb. Jam is another popular foodstuff. And then you get into the vast realm of unusual ways to cook rhubarb -- sauce (like applesauce), chutney, smoothies, syrup, cooked with meat/lentils, in cake, in other desserts (rhubarb crisp), and the list goes on. Kitchen Kettle in Intercourse, PA, has been holding a rhubarb festival for 26 years now. They even published a cookbook at one point showing the range of rhubarb uses in tasty dishes. Its not a vegetable often seen at farmer's market -- I'm not sure why; possibly its not as popular as I like to think it is? All in all, its easy to grow and is a beautiful plant with its huge leaves. Give it room though -- one plant will grow to cover a 4-foot area in a year's time. My family (yes, the entire family!), falls into the love it category. So much so, I just removed some of my 70-foot border of rhubarb plants to make room for Strawberries. I figured 12 feet of rhubarb with two plants now in the rose garden, might be just enough. For many years, my mom (and of course both grandmas when they were alive) made pies, jam, and sauce and we never ran short of rhubarb, and she's asking about already this year. The plants should be ready in a week or two, and you should be finding it at the farmer's markets shortly also. There's green, and ruby red stalks. Mom prefers the red as most people do because of the attractiveness of the coloring. I actually prefer the green - mainly because its more prolific, grows bigger stalks, and I personally think it tastes better. It really looks ugly in dishes though (Green pie?). Enjoy your rhubarb!