If you enjoy eating fresh, locally grown fruit, early spring is probably not your favorite time of year. Unless you live in Florida or Southern California, pickings can be mighty slim during the months between when the last apples drop from the trees in autumn and the first berries begin to pop up in early summer. But you can satisfy your sweet tooth right now with one of spring’s earliest growing vegetables.
Technically an herb, rhubarb is generally considered a fruit for culinary purposes. It grows in crispy, fibrous stalks with leafy tops, similar to celery, and is usually pink to bright red in color.
Though the leaves are toxic, the stalks are edible, and are a springtime favorite. Their tart flavor makes a wonderful complement for sweeter flavors, including strawberries. Many people also enjoy eating raw rhubarb stalks dipped in sugar!
Where Does Rhubarb Grow?
Rhubarb grows best in northern climates, because it requires temperatures below 40° F to stimulate growth. It generally comes into season in late April or early May, and can be harvested throughout the summer.
Enjoy nature’s dessert vegetable with some of these sweet rhubarb treats:
- 6 cups chopped rhubarb
- 6 cups sugar
- 2 medium oranges
- Combine rhubarb and sugar in a large saucepan.
- Grind the oranges, peels and all, in a food processor. Add to rhubarb mixture.
- Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring often, until the marmalade sheets from a spoon, about 1 hour.
- Pour into hot jars, leaving 1/4” headspace.
- Adjust caps. Process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes. Or consume right away.
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup flour, sifted
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- lb fresh rhubarb
- 1 pint strawberries
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 cups flour, sifted
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup vegetable shortening
- 8 tablespoons cold water
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- To make the pie crust, sift flour and salt into a medium bowl. Cut in shortening with a fork or pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle cold water, one tablespoon at a time and mix lightly with a fork just until the pastry holds together and leaves sides of bowl clean. Make a ball. Flatten it. Wrap the dough in plastic and store in the refrigerator until ready for use.
- Preheat your oven to 425° F. Mix sugar, flour, cinnamon, and cloves in a bowl. Wash rhubarb, trim ends, and cut into 1″ pieces. Measure out six cups and set aside. Wash strawberries, hull and halve them. Measure out four cups and place them in a large bowl, along with the rhubarb cubes. Place both in a large bowl. Sprinkle with sugar mixture and toss lightly to mix. Let stand 15 minutes.
- Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and separate it into two sections, one slightly larger than the other. Roll the larger one out into a 14” circle on a lightly floured surface, and the other into a 10” circle. Place the 14” crust at the bottom of a greased 10” pie pan.
- Toss the rhubarb mixture once more before pouring it into the pastry. Cover the filling with the 10” crust and crimp the edges of the two crusts together. Brush the top with melted butter, sprinkle with sugar, and cut a small vent. Bake for about 40 minutes, until pastry is golden. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
Celebrate National Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Day on June 9th!
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 1/2 cups diced rhubarb
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- Grease two 12-cup muffin pans or line them with cupcake wrappers.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- In a separate bowl, beat the brown sugar, oil, egg, vanilla, and buttermilk with an electric mixer until smooth.
- Pour in the dry ingredients and mix by hand until blended. Stir in the rhubarb and walnuts.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared cups, filling almost to the top.
- In a small bowl, stir together the melted butter, white sugar and cinnamon.
- Sprinkle about a teaspoon of this mixture on top of each muffin.
- Bake until the tops of the muffins spring back when lightly pressed, about 25 minutes.
- Cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from pans.
Jaime McLeod is a longtime journalist who has written for a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites, including MTV.com. She enjoys the outdoors, growing and eating organic food, and is interested in all aspects of natural wellness.