Monday, July 13, 2009

Rhubarb Reflections

Sorry about the alliteration. It's been a cool, rainy summer here, and as the peppers and tomatoes languish, the rhubarb is going full steam ahead,producing stems as thick as...well, really really thick stems. What to do with this bounty? It grows all by itself out of the ground, year after year. It requires no seeding, mulching, or fertilizing. It's free, a kind of weed, and therefore seems less valuable than the broccoli that I buy in transplants, or the chard whose seeds I measure out one by one, not to mention the tomatoes.

But rhubarb is full of virtues—vitamin C and fiber and so on. People make pies with it, and you can find all kinds of fancy recipes for it on the internet. One of the most popular is for rhubarb sauce, which is supposed to be delicious on ice cream. But who eats ice cream anymore?

It occurred to me today that I could possibly spoon the stuff over my hot cereal next winter, so a batch of rhubarb sauce is now simmering on the stove. I also cut up ten cups of stems, which I will freeze and at some later date put into six loaves rhubarb bread.

Nevertheless, I barely made a dent in the crop--and I've been harvesting since May.

There's so much food-related stuff to do these days. There are peas, broccoli, kale, chard, and zucchini to harvest and cook and eat, or blanch and freeze and store. There is life to be lived.

A part of me today said, let it go; it didn't cost you anything; just ignore it. But I can't. It's food, and the starving Chinese babies our mothers shamed us with at dinnertime decades ago have morphed into hungry American babies, living within a stone's throw of our house. So every week I harvest pounds of rhubarb for the saintly woman who collects them for the local food bank. She tells me the rhubarb always finds a “home.”

I try to think what happens to my rhubarb after it leaves here. Do the working poor have the time and energy to make pies, breads and sauces at the end of a hard, discouraging day? Wouldn't it be better if I offered my rhubarb already in the form of breakfast, or dessert?

Right now, that's out of the question. There is too much else to do. But between making rhubarb pies from scratch and letting the rhubarb go altogether, there is a middle course to which I will stick, hoping it's the right course.

6 comments :

  1. Jamie Oliver has a yummy recipe of pork fillets on rhubarb, if that's any help.

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  2. Our foodbank, at the parish, is always looking for easy food like canned meat soups, breakfast cereals, tuna, etc, like you'd expect. But the past few years they get asked about things like baking powder and flour.

    Sometimes the hard discouraging day, at least here in the city, is because there's nothing to do, you're jobless, and you were raised in a family that did know how to cook rhubarb or banana bread or oatmeal cookies.

    Which scares me. A lot.

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  3. When overwhelmed with the bounty I feed it to the earth always remembering that nourishing the soil is necessary also.

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  4. who eats ice cream? i do! but i can't grow rhubarb. my neighbor dug some up for me last year and i planted it in a corner of our yard and nothing sprouted, nothing at all.

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  5. Bridgett, I've always thought that food banks should offer recipes, and even classes on cooking simple, healthy food. Some probably do.

    Dona, I've also discovered that those huge rhubarb leaves make terrific mulch. If I see a weed while I'm picking rhubarb, I just plunk a leaf on top of it, and it's never heard from again.

    Laurie, that's too bad, because that sauce turned out yummy. Did you plant your rhubarb in a sunny spot? It does like lots of light. Maybe a little compost wouldn't hurt either.

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