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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Rhubarb: A Spring-time Favorite

I can’t believe it’s time to talk about springtime favorites and traditions, but here we are — already in the month of April, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

Rhubarb has been serving as a harbinger of spring since the late 1700s, when it first made its way to America, migrating from older and colder countries by way of Italy.

An annual favorite of the older generation especially, I remember, as a youngster, being introduced to rhubarb by my aunt, Dovie Stamey. She always had plenty of it growing along the creek bank near her Avery County home, and loved to share it with everyone who dropped by.

While many young folks don’t have a clue what it is, rhubarb is an incredibly versatile food item with many uses. It’s best cooked up with something sweet and made into cakes, pastries, jams, pickles, conserves and sauces.

When choosing rhubarb, look for crisp, plump, medium-size stalks, but get rid of the leaves, as they contain a poisonous substance.

Rhubarb will remain fresh in the refrigerator for about a week if wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed in an airtight container.

Rhubarb grows so abundantly, that if you have your own, you may be forced to drop a bunch on your neighbor’s porch, almost like you do zucchini.

You can freeze rhubarb, whole or sliced, by packing in a moisture-proof, freezer-proof container or bag, leaving about ½-inch headspace. Then, even in the middle of winter, you can enjoy its springtime taste in cakes, pies and muffins.

In all recipes, frozen rhubarb can be substituted for the fresh — just be sure to drain on a paper towel before using.


Easy Rhubarb Cake

1 yellow or white cake mix

3 cups chopped rhubarb

1 cup sugar

2 cups whipping cream – not whipped

Make cake mix according to directions on box. Pour into 9 x 13-inch greased pan.

Arrange rhubarb on top of uncooked cake. Sprinkle sugar over rhubarb. Do not stir.

Pour unwhipped cream evenly over rhubarb. Do not stir.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. The cream, sugar and rhubarb will form a custard layer.

When baked, cool and place in fridge to cool custard layer.


Cinnamon Rhubarb Cake

1½ cup raw rhubarb, cut fine

1 cup brown sugar

¾ cup white sugar, divided

½ cup butter or margarine

1 egg

½ tsp. salt

1 cup applesauce

1 tsp. soda

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups flour

1 tsp. cinnamon

In large mixing bowl, cream sugars and butter; add egg and salt. Stir in applesauce, soda, vanilla and flour. Add rhubarb.

Pour in prepared 9×13-inch baking pan and sprinkle with ¼ cup white sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. The cake is very moist and needs no frosting.


Rhubarb Muffins

2 cups flour

1½ tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. baking soda

¾ cup sugar

1 large egg

¼ cup vegetable oil

¾ cup orange juice

2 tsp. orange peel, grated

1¼ cups rhubarb (fresh) finely chopped

¾ cup pecans, chopped

Combine dry ingredients; beat egg and oil; add orange juice and peel. Add to flour mixture; add rhubarb.

Pour into 12 greased muffin tins. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes


Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

4 cups diced rhubarb

4 cups sugar

1 can crushed pineapple

1 large box strawberry Jell-O

Cook rhubarb, sugar and pineapple for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Pour in Jell-O; mix well. Pour into jam glasses/jelly jars, leaving ½-inch at top for expansion. May be placed in hot water bath to seal, or plastic containers to freeze.


Crunchy Rhubarb Dessert

Mix until crumbly:

1 cup sifted flour

1 cup uncooked oatmeal

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

½ cup melted margarine

1 tsp. cinnamon

Press half of mixture into 9 x 9-inch square pan; cover with 4 cups diced rhubarb.


1 cup sugar

2 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 cup water

1 tsp. vanilla

Cook until thick and clear; pour sauce over rhubarb. Top with remaining crumb mixture and bake in oven at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes. Serve warm as is or top with whipped cream.