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.
(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!