By Sherrie Norris
When you begin to see the bright red stalks of rhubarb appear in the High Country, you know it’s spring. While technically a vegetable (and especially good when combined with strawberries), rhubarb is easily recognized by its rosy red and green-tinged stalks with green leaves, Once you get a bite of its distinct tart flavor, you will never forget it.
It’s been around since the late 1700s, migrating to America from older and colder countries by way of Italy. Early pioneers learned that while the stalk is versatile, the leaves are poisonous, and that’s something we need to keep in mind today.
Rhubarb grows abundantly and is at its best when stalks are medium, but plump in size. It can be stay fresh for about two weeks in the fridge when wrapped in a damp paper towel and placed in an airtight container.
Rhubarb can also be frozen, whole or sliced, and packed 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.
3 ½ cups rhubarb stalks, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 cups strawberries, sliced
3/4 – 1 cup sugar (depending on preference for tart vs. sweet)
4 Tbsp. quick-cooking tapioca or cornstarch for thickening
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. orange zest
1 (9-inch) double-crust pie dough
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In large bowl, gently mix rhubarb and strawberries with sugar, tapioca, salt and orange zest. Let set for about 10 minutes before placing in a pastry-lined pie plate.
Top fruit mixture with second crust, trimming it to fit the pie, crimp around edges to seal crust and score top with fork or knife to let steam escape.
Bake pie in the middle of oven, with a cookie sheet on lower oven rack to catch any juices that might bubble over. After 20 minutes, reduce heat to 350 for another 45 minutes or until lightly browned.
Cooling before serving allows juices to thicken, but it’s very tasty when warm and served with cool whip or ice cream.
Rhubarb Nut Muffins
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk, plus 2 tsp. vinegar or lemon juice)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup rhubarb, chopped
½ cup nuts, chopped
¼ brown sugar, packed
¼ nuts, chopped
½ tsp. cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, buttermilk, oil, egg and vanilla; mix well with a fork. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Add egg mixture, rhubarb and nuts. Stir until just combined. Spoon batter into 12 regular or 9 large greased muffin cups. Sprinkle mixed topping ingredients over muffin batter.
Bake for 20 minutes or until done.
Easy Rhubarb Cake
1 yellow cake mix
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 cups fresh rhubarb, chopped
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups whipping cream
Whipped cream, ice cream or yogurt for garnishing (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, water, oil and eggs at low speed until moistened. Beat for 2 minutes at highest speed. Pour into greased and floured 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle rhubarb over the mixture and top with sugar. Pour cream over the top. Bake for 1¼ to 1½ hours or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Serve warm or cold with whipped cream, ice cream or yogurt, if desired. Store in refrigerator.