Thursday, June 3, 2010

Adventures with Rhubarb

I have had very little experience with rhubarb in my life. In fact, I don't even recall being introduced to it until sometime in my teens, and then it was only in passing. I do recall believing it to be some sort of celery, so that probably didn't help things (I'm not a big celery fan...unless it's prettied up with some peanut butter and raisins).

Just recently, however, my curiosity was piqued by a recipe I saw in the spring chapters of Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for strawberry rhubarb crisp. So, I allowed my burgeoning inner seasonal eater to take the wheel, and a'rhubarb shopping I went.

In the three or four minutes of web-surfing that followed, I was surprised to learn that rhubarb, despite my limited exposure, has been used and eaten for the better part of five millenia, and apparently it hasn't changed much in the interim. Though now classified as a fruit by the U.S. government, rhubarb is still decidedly vegetable-esque in appearance, texture, and smell. It has long stiff stalks (properly known as petioles) that very in color from green to spotted pink to red, which is the most common. Its leaves are thick and—just in case you're tempted to nibble—mm-mm-toxic, so watch out.

Though still wary when I placed my Retail Relay order, I was lucky enough to get my locally-grown rhubarb free of charge (they messed up my order), so I figured it was meant to be. Unfortunately I can't say the same about the strawberries, which ended up coming from the supermarket (I'm sorry, but I just couldn't get it together to make it to the farmer's market on Saturday). Still, they were good and reasonably fresh.

Putting the crisp together was pretty simple. Sliced berries, chopped rhubarb, and honey on the bottom; flour, brown sugar, oats, and butter on the top. I'll admit, I made the mistake of trying some of the raw rhubarb prior to cooking. Imagine chewing raw potato with the flavor of lemon, lime, and celery. Needless to say, it wasn't pleasant.

The finished dish, on the other hand, was heavenly. I think the use of honey (which I initially questioned) helped to keep it from being too sweet and really allowed the fruit to come through. I was also really happy with topping—it was just like an oatmeal cookie (which, now that I think about the ingredients involved, makes total sense).

So anyway, I can now add rhubarb to my list of culinary conquests. As a reward, I think I'll have some leftover crisp.


  1. oh man, this sounds delicious! suzanne made a crisp with mostly cherries (frozen from last year), blueberries, and rasperries (ratio was 3:1:1 i believe) that was amaaaazing...same topping as yours, with the addition of some slivered almonds. so good.

    i loved animal, vegetable, miracle...i plan on making zucchini choc chip cookies when my parents start going crazy from the overabundance of their zucchini harvest :)

  2. those did sound good! we should totally have a funky vegetable cookie party. seriously.

    ooh, i bet apples and shaved carrots would work in an oatmeal cookie.

  3. i never had rhubarb until i took a chance on a slice of strawberry-rhubarb pie from the Dayton Farmer's Market sometime during my latter college career and haven't had it since. until....on one of our late evening strolls last week, we noticed a rhubarb plant growing in an alley near our house that didn't really appear to belong to anyone. we harvested a few petioles and i began poring over recipes, finally deciding to make my own. the end result was a rhubarb/strawberry/blueberry cobbler that was outstanding! stolen rhubarb makes the best cobbler :-)