© 2009 Lynsey

078 – The Joy of Rhubarb

Rhubarb. I’ve always loved it – perhaps my favourite ‘fruit’ dessert. There’s something wonderfully ‘Spring is in the air’ about it – especially if the stems are – was these are – bight red and fleshy. You get more flesh out of the green stems, and the red fades to pink on cooking, but to me they’re an essential part of the Spring menu, along with asparagus and strawberries. There’s something very nice about a simple meal of asparagus, salmon, and those shamelessly early potatoes, with a dessert of rhubarb and strawberries to follow.

Traditional medicines have used rhubarb root in a variety of ways, including for its laxative properties, and research is being conducted in China into rhubarb’s cancer fighting properties. We were taught at school that rhubarb leaves were poisonous – oxalic acid as I recall. While it is true the leaves do contain oxalic acid (as do many plants) the average person would have to consume an enormous amount of the bitter leaves to have any fatal effect. You can eat the stems raw, I will eat a piece of stem myself, although I suspect only the hardiest person would gobble up an entire stem.

I like to serve rhubarb as in rhubarb crumble, or simply lightly stewed. As a kid my favourite dessert was rhubarb and junket (milk clotted with rennet) sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg. Apparently this was good for our blood – my Mum’s all encompassing nutritional descriptor. It probably was/is. I don’t know what or why, but for me there is an absolute magic about eating plant stems in Spring. Perhaps it is the ritual of renewal – something akin to eating eggs at Easter.

14. Every day the ordinary can be the extraordinary.
22. Every day refine, clarify and simplify.
33. Every day try something new.

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