This past weekend we spent a lot of time with friends, and I am totally and completely exhausted. But we also cooked a lot, and had a great time doing it. On Saturday we actually harvested some rhubarb from our backyard, and learned a TON about it. Behold:
Pretty, but definitely different than what you see in stores! Here are only a few of the things that we learned:
- As you may have noticed, this rhubarb is only partially the trademark red you may see in stores. This is purely an aesthetic factor – color has nothing to do with readiness to eat but people like to buy pretty red stalks.
- On that note, we also learned that since we are eating the stalk of the plant as opposed to the fruit, it doesn’t really get ripe – it’s OK to eat at any time. Kind of like you don’t wait for celery to get ripe.
- The leaves are poisonous! Do not eat!
- You can harvest 1/4 to 1/3 of a plant at a time and it will start growing back right away.
- You (practically – ninjas might work) cannot kill them. They will keep growing back.
- Rhubarb is often considered a spring plant because when it gets hot, the plant is too dry and not very good to eat. However, if you live in a place with a less sweltering summer (like Oregon!) you can eat it all summer long.
After doing much research, we decided to make a strawberry rhubarb crisp to share with the friends we invited over that night. And honestly, Dave did all of the work on this one. He used (and modified) this recipe from Food and Wine.
2 pounds rhubarb stalks, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 1/4 cups sugar (NOTE: Dave used significantly less sugar – 1 scant cup)
1 pound strawberries, hulled and quartered
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (NOTE: since we were making a gluten-free dessert, we omitted the flour and added more oats)
1 1/4 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
Here’s what you do – with our notes:
Preheat the oven to 375°. In a bowl, toss the rhubarb with 3/4 cup of the sugar and let stand for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. In another bowl, toss the strawberries with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and let stand for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.During this time, the rhubarb is going to sweat a LOT – that’s the idea. Rhubarb is very very tangy by itself and by using the sugar now, you are sweating some of the acidity and sourness out.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the rhubarb to the strawberries; discard any rhubarb juice. Add the cornstarch, lemon juice and vanilla to the fruit and stir well. Transfer the mixture to a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish.
For the topping, you can experiment a lot. I know that Dave added molasses and more brown sugar and oats to make up for not using flour. Just make sure you have something that will end up crispy (like oats) and something to stick it together. Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix with your fingers until it sticks together in big crumbs, then sprinkle over the top and bake for about 30 minutes, then reduce the temp to 325 and cook for another 30.
It’s going to be tempting to dive in, but let it stand for a while so the juices can thicken up, similar to with a pie filling. And the, you have a perfect summer treat. It’s great with ice cream, froyo or vanilla pudding! And soooooo worth the long bake time. Trust me.