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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Rhubarb: A Spring Tradition

By Sherrie Norris

The bright red stalks of rhubarb serve as a messenger of spring as much as the first crocus. From a culinary point of view, many enjoy this stout, coarse perennial with large leaves and small clusters of flowers and look forward to its arrival each year.

We read that as early as 1778, rhubarb made its way to America, migrating from older and colder countries by way of Italy. Early pioneers learned that while the stalk is versatile, the leaves are poisonous.

It is best to select crisp, plump, medium-size stalks which are fresh looking. Wrap a damp paper towel and place in an airtight container, store in refrigerator where it will stay fresh up to two weeks.

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 later in the season! But, there are ways to keep it for winter’s enjoyment, so don’t think you have to get rid of it all at once.

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, muffins, etc.

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


Rhubarb Cobbler

1 cup sugar

1 cup hot water

1 package white or yellow cake mix, without pudding

4 cups fresh rhubarb, cut in 1-inch pieces

Add sugar to water; stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare cake mix according to directions; pour into greased 9 x 13-inch pan. Add rhubarb to sugar and water mixture; spoon over batter but do not stir. Bake for 1 hour, or until tested done. Rhubarb will form sauce at bottom and cake mixture will rise to the top.


Rhubarb Nut Bread

1 ½ cups brown sugar

2/3 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

2 ¼ cups flour

1 cup buttermilk

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 ½ cups diced rhubarb

½ cup walnuts


1/3 cup sugar

1 tbsp. margarine

Cinnamon to taste

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix all ingredients except topping. Pour into two greased loaf pans. Mix topping ingredients until crumbly and sprinkle over top of loaves. Bake for 45 minutes or until done.


Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

4 cups diced rhubarb

4 cups sugar

1 large box strawberry Jell-O

1 can crushed pineapple

Cook rhubarb, sugar and pineapple for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Pour in Jell-O. Put into jelly jars, leaving ½-inch at top for expansion, and freeze.


Rhubarb Crunch

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 the crumb mixture 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 crumbs and bake in oven at 350 for 45 – 60 minutes. Serve warm as is or top with whipped cream.