Monday, May 7, 2012

RHUBARB - Spread the word!

It's rhubarb season!  As a child I used to enjoy eating the raw stalks of it.  Today, I have no idea why I ever did that (now it's almost a bitter-type of sour to me).  The majority of the rhubarb we grow nearly goes to waste.  I can't stand wasting stuff, so today I have decided to educate myself (and maybe you, too!) on rhubarb.


Rhubarb we've put in one of the flower beds


First, let's warm up with a couple facts about good ole' rhuby:
  • ONLY eat the stalks.  The leaves contain high levels of oxalic acid that can be quite toxic (I always knew that one, perhaps it's the geek in me.)
  • According to www. nutritiondata.self.com, rhubarb has only 26 calories per 1 cup serving, and 6 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber, and 1 gram of sugar (obviously!)
  • Almanac.com provides that rhubarb was widely viewed as a spring tonic after a long winter to aid the digestive system.
  • There is a site named rhubarb-central.com which has a ton more facts, but one that stood out to me is that because rhubarb is a vegetable, there are loads of savory recipes in which it can be cooked/served with any type of meat.  I never thought about that.

Actually, I've never heard of a spring tonic, let alone a rhubarb spring tonic.  After doing some searching, this recipe sounds pretty dang good:

A Vermont Spring Tonic: Rhubarb-Citrus Soda
  • 4 cups (about 1 pound) chopped rhubarb
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup honey, plus more to taste
  • 2 quarts plain seltzer water, chilled
Put the rhubarb and water into a large pot set over high heat.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat then let simmer covered for about 20 minutes.
Pour the orange and lemon juices and honey into a 3-quart or larger container.
Pour the hot rhubarb through a strainer into the container, pressing on the rhubarb to release all the flavor. Discard the rhubarb. Whisk to dissolve the honey in the warm liquid. Taste and add more honey if desired, keeping in mind that you will be diluting the base with seltzer. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate in a sealed container. When ready to use, pour some of the rhubarb base into a glass and add seltzer in roughly equal parts to achieve the desired flavor and carbonation level. The base should keep in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Makes 1 gallon.

-- "Cooking with Shelburne Farms: Food and Stories from Vermont" by Melissa Pasanen with Rick Gencarelli (Viking, 2007)


Now I'm hungry!  Let's take a look at a supposedly delicious savory rhubarb dinner:


Baked Chicken And Rhubarb

Yield 6 servings, Total time 1 hour 10 minutes
  • 2 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 3lbs chicken breast
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 ground nutmeg
Combine rhubarb, sugar, cornstarch and water in a saucepan; cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture boils.  Simmer, stirring frequently, until mixture boils.  Add lemon juice.  Set aside to cool.  Place chicken in a shallow baking dish.  Brush with butter and sprinkle with salt.  Baked uncovered at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.  Spoon rhubarb sauce over chicken.  Then sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg and return to the oven for another 20 minutes.  One you remove from the oven, spoon more sauce over the chicken, and serve.

This recipe came from www.cooks.com and it has received some excellent reviews. 


As I was searching around for other recipes, I noticed stewed rhubarb was in a TON of the recipes' ingredient list.  There are also a TON of ways to stew rhubarb.  People often put all kinds of spices and fruits into their stewed rhubarb recipes, which is alright, but not so good for other recipes.  I have stewed rhubarb before, and here's how I do it:

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 1/2 cup of sugar (or less, or splenda - it's your taste!)
  • 1/4 cup of water

Put the water, sugar, and rhubarb into a saucepan.  Bring it to a boil, but keep an eye on it so it doesn't boil over.  Once the rhubarb has broken down, take it off the heat to cool.

Once you have stewed rhubarb, it's great to add into a smoothie with a banana, or strawberries, or both!  I would recommend you add another fruit unless you've decided to add way more sugar to your stewed rhubarb recipe so that it's already sweet.


I most certainly hope that this will take out some of the guessing when it comes to rhubarb, so spread the word!  I plan on making the spring tonic and the baked chicken and rhubarb recipe.  Pictures to follow soon!




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