My rhubarb plants. Photo: Anne Skoogh
Rhubarb is truly one of the first heralds of summer – those bright pink and green stalks, sprouting in early May. It’s easily found in grocery stores but it’s also one of the easiest things to grow yourself. You need a fairly large amount of dirt – a pot won’t suffice unless it’s huge. I have a big deep square made from wooden pallets and I planted three different kinds of rhubarb last year. It takes a few years before you can get a good harvest though, so don’t be tempted to pluck all the stalks those first years. I had enough for one pie last year, and am planning on three or four this year – but many MANY more in years to come!
Rhubarb needs quite a bit of sun, and plenty of water. Don’t allow them to bloom, as that will take too much energy from the plant. (Just remove any buds that you might see.) Use the stalks while still fairly young, or they might be woody and overly acidic. You can even freeze it if you have a lot – just cut it up, and place in plastic bags. I use about 500 g of rhubarb for each bag, which as it happens, is just the right amount for a pie.
So, what to make with your rhubarb? I have a lot of suggestions, but I think you should start with one of the simplest and also the tastiest: a rhubarb crumble. I apologize for not having a good photo of this – I find it very hard to make crumbles justice in photos!
4 generous servings
500 g of rhubarb, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
300 ml flour
2 tbsp sugar
125 g butter
Start by preparing the rhubarb. Put in a pie dish, and sprinkle with sugar – it depends on how tart your rhubarb is, but don’t skimp on it. Make the topping in a food processor, or by hand – start by combining the sugar and flour, add the butter and pulse (or chop) until you have crumbs.
Simple as that! Sprinkle the crumbs on top of the rhubarb, and bake in a hot oven (225 degrees C, 450 F) for 20-25 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and crispy. Serve with custard or vanilla ice cream.