Thursday, May 15, 2008

Recipe: Spring time is Rhubarb time!

Remember my earlier posting that showed the rhubarb plant in our backyard garden just barely peeking through the dirt? What a difference a month makes! Rhubarb just bolts out of the ground once it the dirt warms up a bit. Here is the same plant a month later, all ready to harvest. Rhubarb is very very hardy. The plant in the picture came from my sister-in-law, who got a start from the original plant from her father, who got it from his mother approximately 50 years ago. I wonder how old this rhubarb plant really is. :-)

In fact, we have harvested those gorgeous red and pink stalks a couple of times now to make easy stewed rhubarb, which we eat all by itself, served over oatmeal, plain unflavored yogurt (my husband makes this), granola, or with ice cream as a very special treat.

Stewed Rhubarb can be made on the stove-top or in the microwave.

Wash the rhubarb stalks. Cut off the little bit of white at the root end (if any) and cut off all of the leaves (do not eat any part of the leaves).
Cut stalks into 1-inch pieces until you have 2-3 cups.
Put into 1 quart saucepan.
Add ~1 Tbsp. water to pan.
Heat on medium heat ~10-15 minutes until rhubarb gives up its own juice and is easily mashed (or breaks apart on its own).
Add 1/4 cup sugar (or I used 1/3 cup honey)
Heat another 5 minutes or so.

Serve and eat: While most of what we make we do eat plain or on cereal, this sauce is unbelievably scrumptious served hot over cold vanilla ice cream. Save that for a very special treat. :-)

My husband and I froze bags and bags of cut up rhubarb plus canned many pints of stewed rhubarb last year, as we have 2 rhubarb plants in our community garden also that produce in abundance!! I admit that stewed rhubarb is a favorite food of mine because of the wonderful memories it brings back. My Gramma Helen always made her own and served it for breakfast in little glass custard cups when we visited her each summer in northern Wisconsin. So each time I eat it, I am transported back to those wonderful summer childhood days. :-)

I just did a quick check in the PubMed database of articles published in medical journals, looking for published studies evaluating rhubarb's anti-cancer activity. There are only 26 articles using the search terms rhubarb + cancer, but each one is showing significant promise as the various molecules are being evaluated. There are even well-designed human studies showing various benefits from consuming a rhubarb extract resulting in decreased lung toxicity associated with pulmonary radiation and shorter healing time after surgery for gastric cancer.

So don't wait for more studies to be done. Simply enjoy one of the first foods that announce the beginning of the outdoor growing season in those areas that have cold winters. If you're not lucky enough to have your own rhubarb plant, head down to your local farmers' market to pick up some locally grown. Know that you are eating a healthy and delicious food! If you want to make a rhubarb pie, go for it. However, easy is also great, so make the rhubarb sauce for a win-win-win enjoyment!

I thank my sister-in-law and my Gramma for sharing a part of their heritage with me. I'll end with this short and lovely blessing that also emphasizes sharing of food.

O God, you have formed heaven and earth;
You have given me all the goods
that the earth bears!
Here is your part, my God.
Take it!
~~ Pygmy prayer

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the rhubarb suggestions. I am going to my uncles farm this weekend to pick up some asparagus, rhubarb AND pure maple syrup...just a LITTLE on my Sunday buttermilk pancakes, french toast OR waffles...being religious, I feel it only proper to eat food that is "Good for the soul" on the Lords day;)