Rhubarb is one of the first vegetables gardeners can harvest in the spring. It is a perennial plant, so it comes up on its own each spring, sporting beautiful red stalks (or sometimes pink or green) which can be turned into a number of delightful treats.
Somehow it was always elderly people in my life who had large rhubarb patches from which they were happy to share. I guess that makes me think of rhubarb as an old-fashioned food, but one I love. As a child, my mom would give us kids a bowl of sugar and a few stalks of rhubarb. We’d dip the end of our stalk in the sugar and then take a bite.
I think my all-time favorite use for rhubarb is strawberry-rhubarb pie. While in the UK I was introduced to exclusively rhubarb pie, which I enjoyed and made several times. Rhubarb is delicious in a crumble (see recipe below), either on its own, or combined with strawberries. And it is well-suited for jams and chutneys. Stewed or roasted rhubarb with whipped cream is a simple but sublime dessert. I even came across a recipe for using rhubarb in a green salad!
If you don’t have any rhubarb in your garden, and don’t know any elderly friends with large patches, its worth buying a bunch at the grocery store and enjoying at least one rhubarb dessert during the season. And here is a terrific recipe to try:
STRAWBERRY AND RHUBARB CRUMBLE
(Bon Appetit May 2010)
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3/4 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar
large pinch of salt
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup husked hazelnuts, toasted coarsely chopped (almonds or pecans would also work)
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (I omitted this)
1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved
12 ounces rhubarb (preferrable bright red), ends trimmed, stalks cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick pieces
vanilla ice cream to serve
Combine flour, 2/3 cup sugar, and salt in medium bowl; whisk to blend. Add butter. Rub in with fingertips until mixture sticks together in clumps. Mix in oats and nuts. (Topping can be made one day ahead. Cover and chill.)
Preheat oven to 375F. Butter 11x7x2-inch glass baking dish. Place 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; whisk to blend well. Add strawberries and rhubarb to sugar in bowl; toss to coat well. Scrape fruit filling into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle oat topping evenly over filling.
Bake crumble until filling bubbles thickly and topping is crisp, about 45 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes. Spoon warm crumble into bowls. Serve with ice cream.