What IS Rhubarb, Anyway? (Fruit,Vegetable, or Noxious Weed?)

When our new friend Denyel asked what rhubarb was, we had a hard time answering coherently. That’s a good question, we thought.  Having grown up here, we take rhubarb for granted. Every homestead has a couple of them in the front yard.

“Huge leaves,” I said, holding my arms wide. “Lois uses them to make birdbaths out of cement.”

She still looked lost.

“The stalks are bright red and look like celery…”Lois tried. “And it’s really sour.”

“But don’t eat the leaves!! Or feed them to your animals! They are poisonous!”, I added.

“They’re impossible to kill,” Lois offered. “Can’t kill that stuff with gasoline and hand-grenades. A lot like lilacs! ”

She wasn’t any more convinced. “Just try it!, ” we implored.

I whipped out my “Joy of Rhubarb” Cookbook (yes, it is a real cookbook) after our visit, and learned that it is, indeed a vegetable. (Though a NY court decided in 1947 that it was treated as a fruit, and therefore tariffed as one.)

Wikipedia also adds that it can be used as a laxative. Too bad we didn’t have that info for Denyel, though it probably wouldn’t have helped.

rhubarb 001 rhubarb 003 walking tour 2 023My sister’s rhubarb kicks butt!!

Even when I don’t have the time or energy to bake (or it’s too hot to light the oven), I freeze rhubarb that is chopped into 1/2 inch pieces, two or three cups per bag. Then they are ready to go if I want to bake in the  fall or winter. This year I experimented with Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream Topping and jam, which was a hit at the farm store and Farmers’ Market.

Do you have a favorite rhubarb recipe that you would be willing to share? Paul doesn’t. He says it’s a secret family recipe from his Great great great Grandma, but I call BS; he got it at the Rhubarb Festival /CHUM Bake Sale.

Yes. There is a real, Annual Rhubarb Festival to our south in Duluth, MN. Denyel probably won’t be attending.

 

 

 

 

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8 thoughts on “What IS Rhubarb, Anyway? (Fruit,Vegetable, or Noxious Weed?)

  1. so do you use your rhubarb all summer-there is a great debate in our family-my mom said only use the first picking, neighbor says never use the first pickings, another says you can use it till july and then a friend says you can use it till it freezes!! what do you ladies say

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  2. Well, first there is the rhubarb bread. And then, you can juice it-add a little sweetener of your choice and you can add it to ice tea; cranberries; white wine; or reduce it down to make a thicker syrup for pork or even pancakes. But my personal all-time favorite is my Mom’s rhubarb crisp. ( recipes given upon request).

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