In my vegetable patch (three raised beds) the rhubarb is having a stellar year. Once your plant gets established even a brown thumb can grow rhubarb. Most modern varieties of Rhubarb take very little time to cook than they used to. Years ago rhubarb often needed peeling to remove any stringy fibre but you will only need to do this are most woody and largest of stalks. You pull the rhubarb up, a stick at a time never cut it, then trim off the leaves, rinse off and dry on paper towel(do not soak in a sink of water because the rhubarb will absorb a lot of water).
I usually put a splash of water in the bottom of a non-stick pan, then add some vanilla sugar or honey to lessen the tartness.
I also like to add a few dollops of seedless raspberry jam to the mix to give the rhubarb a nice pink hue.
Besides its obvious uses in desserts, rhubarb can also make a wonderful accompaniment to certain fish dishes or rich meat dishes such as game or foie gras.
Savoury Rhubarb chutney's make a great finishing touch to accompany blue cheeses, or smoked meats.
Homemade Ice Cream
Recently when I overcooked a batch of rhubarb I decided to turn it into Rhubarb and Custard Ice Cream and it was a big success.
Eight things I never knew about Rhubarb
It is hardier than I thought
As a helpful 13 year old I once dug up my father's rhubarb thinking it was a weed. But if you don't dig it up, it is very tough to kill because it originates from extreme climates like Siberia and the mountains of China.
From a botanical point of view Rhubarb is classed as a vegetable.
In the United States, a New York court decided in 1947 that since it was used in the United States as a fruit it was to be counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties, thus causing a lowering of tax on rhubarb.
More valuable than Opium
Historically rhubarb was grown and cultivated in both Russia and China, though for centuries the Russian variety that grew wild along the banks of the River Volga was medieval Europe's only known source. This plus the huge distances rhubarb needed to be transported made the price of rhubarb several times higher than cinnamon, opium or even saffron.
Rhubarb has been used for medical purposes by the Chinese for thousands of years and appears in The Divine Farmer's Herb-Root Classic which legend attributes to the mythical Shen Nung, the Yan Emperor, and is thought to have been compiled in about 2700 BC.
Remarkably rhubarb is packed full of calcium. One cup of cooked rhubarb has a whopping 348mg of calcium (which more than a cup of milk but without the fat). Rhubarb can also be a natural and mild laxative. The root has also been used for all kinds ailments
When taken internally in small doses, rhubarb acts as an astringent tonic to the digestive system, when taken larger doses rhubarb acts as a very mild laxative. The root can be also be used for liver and gall bladder complaints, hemorrhoids, menstrual problems and skin eruptions due to an accumulation of toxins.
The Polo Connection
Russia's Rhubarb remained the only known source until the merchant explorer, Marco Polo found the plant being grown and harvested in the mountains of Tangut province in China.
The first known record of rhubarb being planted in Western Europe was in Italy in 1608, and then in other parts of Europe about 20 to 30 years later. By 1778, Europeans were using rhubarb as a filling for tarts and pies.
The term rhubarb is a combination of the Ancient Greek rha and barbarum; rha is a term that refers both to the plant and to the River Volga. Rhubarb first came to the United States in the 1820s, entering the country in Maine and Massachusetts and moving westwards with the European settlers.
Actors use it
The word rhubarb is often used by actors talking quietly to one another on stage to simulate real conversation, since it contains no harsh sounding consonants and is hard to detect.
*special thanks to Tanya for allowing me to use her wonderful rhubarb photo http://www.cookingfantastic.co.uk