Thursday, April 26, 2007

rhubarb

One of my favorite things about spring is the appearance of asparagus and rhubarb in the markets. Lately, I have been cooking up vats of rhubarb sauce ~ I just eat it plain, bowls of it! I can’t seem to get enough! Here’s my recipe:

1 pound rhubarb stalks
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

Combine and cook over low heat until the rhubarb is tender and you can stir it into a puree. Chill and eat! I know a lot of people add fancy things like corn starch (makes it goopy), lemon (rhubarb’s not tart enough?!?!), port, or red food coloring ~ but I think the simpler the better.

Anyway, my current rhubarb craze led me to do a little research. Rhubarb has its origins in Asia as a medicinal plant ~ its roots valued for their cathartic properties. It most likely came to Europe as a result of the silk and spice trade, and by the 18th century was being cultivated for culinary purposes. However, the plant we now use for sauces and pies is probably a hybrid of its Asian ancestor (see above). The plant was brought to America some time between 1780 and 1800 by a gardener from Maine (!) who apparently procured seeds or root stock from Europe. And generations of Maine women have been cooking it up ever since.

(image: François-Pierre Chaumeton, Flore Médicale [Paris, 1814], plate 297)

6 comments:

cgb said...

Thanks so much for providing some rhubarb history, but, trust you to measure the sugar. I just dump it in until it tastes good!...a Maine cook. cgb

Christine said...

My family are rhubarb lovers as well! Strawberry rhubarb crisp is the BEST.

Fairfax said...

Stew the rhubarb and add sliced bananas... Yum. And ditto on the rhubarb crisp. In the UK they have rhubarb yoghurt!

Anonymous said...

Rhubarb has sent me back to my grandma's garden in Minnesota - we have the sauce over vanilla ice cream - with rhubarb and strawberry pie! KDM

Janet said...

I am so glad to know that there are so many other rhubarb lovers out there. Banana and rhubarb shounds wonderful ~ I'll have to try that. Of course, nothing beats eating over vanilla ice cream.

Isabelle said...

I had no idea you loved rhubarb. You'll have to try mom's rhubarb pie. To die for! And check out Sunday's NY Times Magazine. There's an article on rhubarb and some interesting recipies.