Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rhubarb Time

After dandelions and lilacs the next big garden harvest is rhubarb. And we've been madly harvesting. Avery loves to help- he gets to use a knife and whack off the leaves. Really, what's more fun than standing in the dirt and whacking things with knives? His enthusiasm is not diminished by the fact that he doesn't like rhubarb one bit. Actually no one in the family much like rhubarb, except me. And I love it. It's beautiful, for one thing. Big and lush and vibrant, when everything else in the garden is just peeping up in little green notes, there's rhubarb, shouting out from the corner. Hooray! It's spring!

This year, so far, I've made the usual rhubarb sauce- just cleaned and sliced rhubarb stems (no leaves-they're poison) and a cup of sugar for every 6 cups of rhubarb, simmer 20 minutes or so til it's all soft and mushy. Delicious with homemade yogurt, or ice cream, on pancakes, in muffins, by the sneaky spoonful when no one's looking. Mmmm! Spring in a spoon.
But I decided to try making rhubarb syrup this year too, and boy! am I glad I did. A rhubarb treat Miles and Aaron both like, even if Avery doesn't quite. I chopped up a bunch of rhubarb-12 cups, probably- and added 3 cups of sugar and 6 cups of water, and simmered that 20 minutes or so, til it was soft and mushy, then strained it through my mesh strainer. The loveliest pink liquid filled 4 quart jars. We drank this all weekend, syrup and sparkling water and ice. But if you were in the mood I'd think some rhubarb cocktails would be divine. I'm thinking black currant juice, vodka, rhubarb syrup, or rhubarb syrup, mint, white rum. Or rhubarb and sparkling wine, like a mimosa, only pink! We had rhubarb pie and rhubarb muffins, too, though I didn't make them.
Here is a recipe I'll be trying tomorrow. If you've never been over to smitten kitchen you should hop over right now! Anyway, this rhubarb coffee cake looks amazing.
I think I'm going to harvest more rhubarb and make jelly. I bet my kids will even like it, come winter and the blahs. A little spring time on their toast will start the day right, I think.
I always think of all those pioneers, relying entirely on themselves to survive, and how wonderful the fresh, tart, awakening flavor of rhubarb must have been. A long winter of dried or canned fruit and vegetables, and finally the spring and the emergence of fresh things to eat. Rhubarb, I think, tastes like salvation. Well, at least if you sugar it enough!


Jennifer said...

If you ever have a need to divide your rhubarb, consider a spot for it's off spring in my yard! I've been babying some little seedlings and have been very upset to find out that rhubarb grown from seeds don't produce fruit!!! Egads!

mama-aya said...

Really?! What a waste! I've actually been harvesting my neighbor's- those two plants are 100 some years old! Mine are still babies- well, toddlers, only in their second year. If I hear of anyone wanting to divide, I'll try to pass it on to you, though, certainly.