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MARGARET PROUSE: The first feed of the first fruit of spring

Pick up some fresh rhubarb this time of year as it’s delicious in a variety of recipes.
Pick up some fresh rhubarb this time of year as it’s delicious in a variety of recipes. - 123RF Stock Photo

Many recipes showcase its delicious flavour and unique texture

It is exciting to see the curly rhubarb leaves unfurl in the garden and anticipate the first feed of the first fruit of the season.

I have been thinking about what a friend said about rhubarb. She dislikes it – well, more than that, she thinks it is disgusting – because she finds the texture of rhubarb sauce slimy.

Having eaten rhubarb all my life, that’s something I’d never considered. However, it isn’t a food that she was familiar with, and I can see how she might think that.

It reminded me of my experience with okra. During a short stay on a volunteer project in Ghana, I eagerly tried local foods. I enjoyed most of them, except okra. I’d read that it was popular with Ghanaians and chose it without hesitation on one of our few visits to a restaurant. I couldn’t get past the texture, and I used the same adjective to describe it that my friend used in reference to rhubarb: slimy. I’m sure that if I tried it in other ways, I could learn to enjoy it.

With that insight, I’ve been searching for rhubarb recipes that might encourage people averse to the texture of rhubarb to enjoy its delicious flavour.

Mixing rhubarb pieces into a batter, as in these rhubarb muffins, is one strategy. Use vanilla extract instead of almond or toss in chunks of crystallized ginger or chopped nuts, if desired.

Rhubarb Muffins

Adapted from “Carruthers Henderson Clan Cookbook”, June 2000.

300 mL (1¼ cups) all purpose flour

7 mL (1½ tsp) baking powder

5 mL (1 tsp) salt (reduce if desired)

75 mL (⅓ cup) white sugar

75 mL (⅓ cup) brown sugar

375 mL (1½ cups) diced rhubarb

1 egg

125 mL (½ cup) milk

50 mL (¼ cup) vegetable oil

5 mL (1 tsp) almond extract

additional white sugar

Lightly grease 10 muffin cups or insert paper liners.

Preheat oven to 190 C (375 F).

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Stir in diced rhubarb.

In a small bowl, beat together egg, milk, oil, and almond extract. Pour mixture into dry ingredients, and stir just enough to moisten.

Fill prepared muffin cups ⅔ full, and sprinkle tops with sugar. Bake for 20 minutes.

Makes 8-10 muffins

Another way to modify the texture of rhubarb is to smooth it out by folding in whipped cream. Here is an updated version of an old recipe, Rhubarb Fool. Why is it called fool? I wish I knew. All I’ve been able to find out is that fool is a traditional British dessert made with cooked puréed fruit and whipped cream or custard.

Rhubarb Fool

Adapted from Semenak, Susan: “Market Chronicles: Stories & Recipes from Montreal’s Marché Jean-Talon”, Éditions Cardinal, Montreal, 2011.

250 mL (1 cup) sugar

2 green cardamom pods, broken open

zest and juice of 1 large orange

1 L (4 cups) rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 2.5 cm (1 inch) pieces

125 mL (½ cup) whipping cream

125 mL (½ cup) plain yogurt

In a saucepan, combine sugar, cardamom, orange zest and juice with rhubarb; stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until rhubarb is soft and syrup is slightly thickened. Remove cardamom and allow to cool.

In a separate bowl, whip cream until stiff peaks form. Add yogurt and stir gently to combine. Fold in cooled rhubarb.

Makes 4 servings

You can also make various rhubarb condiments, including relish, chutney or this savoury sauce to serve with pâté on melba toast or with chicken or fish.

Savoury Rhubarb Sauce

From Chavich, Cinda:”The Girl Can’t Cook”, Whitecap Books, Vancouver, 2004.

1 lemon

50 mL (¼ cup) balsamic vinegar

125 mL (½ cup) granulated sugar

1 clove garlic, minced

125 mL (½ cup) minced red onion

15 mL (1 tbsp) minced fresh ginger

750 mL (3 cups) young rhubarb, diced (red parts)

Remove zest from the lemon, and mince. Juice the lemon. You should have 45-50 mL (3-4 tbsp) of juice.

Combine the lemon juice and zest, vinegar, sugar, garlic, onion, and ginger in a nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil.

Add rhubarb, reduce the heat, and simmer, uncovered, on low heat for 15 minutes, until the sauce is thick. Cool.

Makes 500 mL (2 cups)


Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at islandgusto@gmail.com.

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