Fresh Rhubarb

Spring is officially here; I have eaten my first rhubarb!

This sweet and sour perennial has traditionally been used as a Spring tonic to wake up the digestion after a winter of canned or dried foods. Although the leaves are very poisonous, the stalks are delicious and one of the first plants we can harvest in the Spring.

I had trouble getting rhubarb to grow in our heavy clay soil for several years. Then a neighbor told me, “Honey, rhubarb doesn’t like to get its feet wet. You just mound up that soil in a nice little hill so it drains and plant the rhubarb on top.”

She was right! I mounded the soil before planting and now have several very nice plants.

Rhubarb should be harvested in the early Spring before it gets bitter in the warm weather. My daughters and I will cut rhubarb every three days for a while until we have all we need or the weather warms up, which ever comes first.

We like to freeze some every year to make pies and crisps all winter. We just pull young tender stems off the plant, chop off the leaf, and wash the stalk well. Then we chop it into bite size pieces, put it in a quart size freezer bag and freeze. We always label the bags because it only lasts about a year in the freezer before it takes on a strange texture.

We also make several batches of rhubarb jam, which tastes wonderful on homemade whole wheat toast in the morning!

My favorite rhubarb recipe was given to me by a dear friend, and I only make it once a year, in the Spring, because the calorie count is outrageous! (Now you know it’s good!) We just made our yearly batch the other night and enjoyed every bite!

Rhubarb Bars

Crumble together: 3 cups flour, 2 1/4 cups oatmeal, 3 tsp. cinnamon, 3 cups brown sugar, 1 1/2 cup soft butter.

Press half into a greased 9 x 13 pan and cover with 4 cups of rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch slices.

Combine in saucepan: 2 cups sugar, 2 cups water, 4 Tablespoons cornstarch, 2 tsp. vanilla.

Boil 5 minutes stirring constantly.

Pour over rhubarb.

Cover with remaining crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until rhubarb is tender and the topping is brown.

This is best eaten while warm served with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream, but is also good eaten cold with a spoon, right out of the pan when the children aren’t looking!

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