Rhubarb Fever!

The “Pie Plant”

Rhubarb is making a comeback! Lately I’ve noticed paint chips with the color rhubarb, strawberry rhubarb juice, tea, shampoo and more. I know last week’s lemon balm recipe included a rhubarb spritzer and now we’ve decided to feature rhubarb this week…. perhaps it’s because our rhubarb patch looks like this:

It’s a beast and our new little bees are busy exploring this huge plant!

Although this plant produces sour stalks of fruit that turn a lot of people away, the ‘Victorian’ variety changed that, producing sweet and tender rhubarb. I can remember growing up sucking on sticks of rhubarb dipped in sugar.

History: Native to Central Asia. In 2700 B.C. the ancient Chinese used it to produce medicine.  Later, the East Indian Trading Company introduced and supplied trading throughout Europe. In the Seventeenth century, roots and seeds were brought to Western Europe. But it wasn’t until after 1770 that it was discovered as more than a medicinal laxative and rather, a tasty treat. With poisonous leaves, sour stalks and laxative inducing roots….it’s not hard to imagine why they didn’t come to the idea to put it in a pie earlier!   Rhubarb took Britain and America by storm by 1837.

When to plant: Early spring, rhubarb is generally planted from bulbs in full sun, however rhubarb does like cool weather, so it tends to flourish in late spring- early summer.

When to harvest: If you are just planting rhubarb, the stalks should not be harvest in the first year in order for the plant to become established, only a few stalks should be taken in the second year and then the third year on, rhubarb may be harvested from early spring to mid summer. Harvest when stalks are 12-18 inches long. To harvest, just pull the stems rather than cutting them.

Companions: Asparagus, kale, cabbage and of course, strawberries! Not only are strawberries and rhubarb taste companions, they are excellent  roommates patchmates as well.

Rhubarb Pink Peppercorn Sauce

(Click link to view recipe)

Rhubarb is a classic ingredient for many sweet recipes; crisp, pies and jam. And , in my opinion, is best mixed with it’s counterpart – the strawberry. However for this week we thought we would give you a savory summer option so you can discover the many areas that rhubarb will shine!

If all of this talk has gotten you in the mood for some perfectly balanced sweet and sour nostalgia, join us tomorrow (Saturday, 25th) for some Fresh Baked Strawberry Rhubarb Pie!


Herbivores: Lemon Balm

Personally until writing this, I didn’t realize how extremely versatile this little herb was. It would be nice to say that I am an herbal guru, considering I write this every week but I am still learning so much as I go. Lemon balm is not the most popular herb but after reading this post you may decide that it belongs in every herb garden.

One of Brambles servers has been saying lemon “bomb” all week, I’m not sure if has anything to due with the fact that English is her second language but I like to think that’s actually an accurate name considering the burst of smell, and more, the fact that this tough herb is fairly vigorous  in taking over the garden!

History: Lemon balm is a member of the mint family and has similarities to chamomile in its calming effects. It was used as far back as the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety and is native to Southern Europe.

Another interesting fact is that it shares a name with many of my friends. (I know you’re thinking- just because I am named after a plant, doesn’t mean all of my friends are too!) Being born in the 80s means that several of my classmates shared the official name for lemon balm – Melissa! Melissa Officinalis, which means “bee” in Greek, named for its reputation of attracting honeybees.

When to plant: Lemon Balm is one of the easiest herbs to grow in your garden! It can grow in a variety of soils but does best in well-drained dirt and in full sun or partial shade.

When to plant from seed: Start indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost.  Keep in mind that Tanglebank has some beautifully potted lemon balm for $3.99 ready to go if you’re looking for a nice new addition to your gardens this year!

Did you know that you can “harden up your plants”? You can make your herbs tough by preparing them to start life in the real world! How you ask? Just put them in a bright windy area (you could also make your own wind by using a fan) your pre planted lemon balm can be moved outdoors 3 month before frost-free date if they’ve been toughened up.

When to harvest: Harvest leaves as needed and don’t forget to thin out your plant because it does tend to be known for  “growing like a weed”.

Companions: Lemon Balm is another friendly herb, although it is advised to plant near other plants that need to be pollinated!

Uses: Most common uses for the versatile plant is in herb gardens but also grown for medicinal and cosmetic purposes, even used for furniture polish!

Edible uses: beverages, fish and white meats, jams and desserts, to name a few.

Rhubarb Lemon Balm Spritzer

Lemon Balm Chicken

(Yield 4 people)

These two recipes are a perfect treat to kick off the BBQ season! For a stress free patio meal add baked potatoes with all of your favorite toppings and grilled asparagus with fresh squeezed lemon, olive oil, sea salt and cracked pepper.

And if you really want to take advantage of this addition to your garden, throw a few stems on the BBQ to ward off mosquitoes from your summer feast!


Herbivores: Par-cel

Tastes like celery, looks like parsley. Hence the combination name, par-cel!

Parcel is a bit of a special interest herb, not too many people have heard of it or know how to use it, so naturally we’ve decided to feature it this week!

History: Parcel is a relatively new leafy Japanese celery.

When to plant: Plant in early spring in light shade to full sun. Make sure to water well.

When to harvest: similar to parsley, pick the outer leaves from late April to late summer

Companions: This leafy green is a great accent to containers and it also is used to deter some insects as well.

Uses: Typically used in salads, risottos, soups or stuffing, as well as for a garnish.

As I am writing out this blog  this morning I’m daydreaming of sitting out on my patio and eating this fresh delicious breakfast in the peculiarly early summer we seem to be having (knock on wood!) Brambles Kitchen features another baked eggs dish on our menu, so our followers have the privilege to try a spin off of one of our finest favorites!

Baked Eggs Recipe

Parcel Cream Recipe

Chef Lingo: Chiffonade -cutting herbs into ribbon like strips. The easiest way to use this technique is by stacking or rolling the leaves and then cutting across to create long strips.

The benefit to each of these recipes is that they can be created as multiple variations! The Parcel Cream can be used as a pasta sauce, on pork or chicken as well as baked eggs!

Experiment with this fresh and flavorful hybrid!


Herbivore: CHIVES

We have decided to give our followers a little bit of herbal education. Whether you are starting your first garden or have many years of dirt on your gardening gloves, this segment will give you some helpful and interesting hints.

It’s only suitable to start our ‘herb of the week’ series with one of the easiest herbs to grow. Chives!

As many of you avid gardeners know, chives are one of the first edible plants to pop up in Spring.

History: Chives are the smallest members of the onion family. They are originally native to Europe and Asia.

When to plant: Chives are a perennial and can grow in almost any conditions, keeping in mind that they have moist soil and full sun.

When to harvest: all summer long!

Companions: Chives are outgoing and friendly herbs. They get along with everybody! Especially because of their beautiful blooms that attract bees and enhance pollination.

Uses: Typically used on eggs, fish, salads and potatoes. The purplish blossoms that grow atop these long grass-like stems are also edible! Sprinkle them on salad, soup, pasta salad or dips.

We want you to fall in love with using fresh foods in your own kitchen. Now, there is nothing wrong, so to speak with using your chives with potatoes, that’s a classic and staple use for this little guy, but Brambles kitchen would like to give you a fresh look on a classic herb.

Before you allow your fears to turn you away from reading further than the title of this recipe card, fear not! For some of you it’s the fear of the falling soufflé or perhaps just the accent on the end of the word sendsyou heading for the hills. As I am told from Brambles chef Sarah Kruk, this is a fool-proof soufflé! In fact, contrary to popular belief, this particular dish doesn’t need to be served right away but can actually be made the day before (to avoid the fear of deflating your soufflé or your ego!) and can be twice baked.

(click on the links below to open recipes)

Chive and Boursin Souffle Recipe

Honeyed Mustard and Chive Emulsion

This dish can be served on its own or with a salad made with this delicious chive dressing! Try adding spring greens, grilled asparagus and orange segments to the salad!

Have fun with it and let us know how your soufflés turn out!