Simply put: Rhubarb polarizes people. My sister-in-law offered us ALL the rhubarb from her garden. Many friends decline a slice of rhubarb pie no matter how attractive the crust is latticed. That’s OK. More for the rest of us!
Rhubarb is super-easy to grow — especially in the Midwest — and it comes back every year with little help from the gardener. On a cool spring day, plant crowns (or divisions from fellow gardeners) in a sunny spot with plenty of room for the plant to spread. Keep the plants moist throughout the summer.
Most rhubarb plants yield harvestable stalks after the second year and will do so for more than eight years. If your plant is older, I recommend starting fresh; old plants yield tough, tasteless stalks.
Always compost or discard the green leaves from the rhubarb stalks – they contain high concentrations of oxalic acid, which can cause serious health problems in humans and pets.
At the farmers market, the brilliant red stalks of fresh rhubarb amid spring’s bounty of fresh asparagus, peas and skinny chives ignite ideas. If you can’t stand rhubarb’s relatively short season, don’t worry, it freezes quite well. Dice the stalks, freeze the pieces solid on a baking sheet, then pack into freezer bags. Frozen rhubarb complements fresh cranberries when they come into season.
I turn piles of the reddest, skinniest stalks into a lemony rhubarb compote. It’s beautifully suited for breakfast pancakes and waffles. We also ladle the sweet sauce over buttermilk biscuits and top them with sweetened whipped cream and fresh berries for a shortcake dessert. Or you can dollop the pretty red sauce generously over the following bread pudding for brunch or dessert.
Thicker, tarter, less red stalks work well in a savory chutney condiment destined for grilled pork, poultry and brown rice bowls. Fresh ginger, brown sugar and red wine vinegar add sweet and savory notes. Often, fresh tart cherries are available at the same time as rhubarb, so I stir some into the chutney for more color and a flavor pop. Spread the chutney thinly over toasted bread for a smoked ham or turkey sandwich with cheese. Or, swirl some into plain yogurt for a sauce to serve with roast lamb, grilled eggplant slices or more great grilled dishes.
You'll want to spoon this simple, sweet condiment on everything this summer. The lemongrass and strawberries are optional but highly recommended.
Strawberry and rhubarb are a match made in heaven, especially when combined in this incredible bread pudding recipe and topped with rhubarb compote.
Rhubarb and cherries aren't just for dessert! This savory, tart chutney is the perfect complement to every meal this summer.