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I have to be honest, I would have never planted rhubarb myself.  It came with the house.  Growing up my mom grew and used rhubarb, and I even have vague memories of picking the stems and chewing on them raw (my siblings and I were far more enamored with sour than sweet), but nothing about the tart plant made it stand out in my memories.  To me it was more of a flavoring than a fruit or vegetable, and why put time and that much space into a flavoring (and this reasoning doesn't stand up when you know the number of herbs I plant).

Now I totally get it.  And I love rhubarb.

De-leafed rhubarb... btw, I have a new camera!
It's the first thing to really take off in the garden.  Yes, the asparagus is going strong by now too, but my asparagus is still second year (ie no harvesting) and the tall skinny aspargus ferns don't make much of an impact, visually.  The first thing you see when you look at my garden right now (once you get past the bright red plastic covering my tomato beds) is my rhubarb, with its mounds of huge green leaves, little patches of red stem barely showing through all the foliage.  It seems to have exploded in the past week and I realized the other day it was time to harvest- my first garden harvest of the year.

As I picked the largest stems from my plants I began to ponder what to do with the dark pink veg.  I had only just realized, while checking on my other plants, that it was time to begin picking, so I hadn't reflected much on the product up until this point.  Jam was a given, as was strawberry rhubarb crisp.  But what else could I make?  Can you ferment rhubarb?  Pickles?  Wine? 

So I finished picking and hit up my old friend, the interwebs, for ideas.  First I searched rhubarb recipes.  Yikes.  You'd think I'd searched tomato or chicken recipes.  I found this site, the Rhubarb Compendium, to be pretty exhaustive.  I plan to throw some of the main dish recipes, like chicken with rhubarb and pork with rhubarb sauce, into my meal plan over the next few weeks. 

Then I remembered I had seen a recipe for rhubarb refrigerator pickles somewhere recently... it was from Mother Earth News.  This was the first thing that I made, and while I haven't tasted them yet (the recipe neglects to add how long to wait for them to "pickle," but I'm going to guess 5 days to a week) but they look really pretty.
Rhubarb refrigerator pickles.
 The two I am most disproportionally excited about, though, are Rhubarb Soda from Sustainable Eats and Fermented Rhubarb from The Sophisticated Peasant.  I am having trouble finding a suitable leaf for the leaf layer in the fermented rhubarb (and may resort to fermenting it in a crock with a weight like I do with kraut), but I started on the soda by making the rhubarb "juice."  It, alone, made my day.  It is the most delightful color of pink I have ever seen occur naturally.  Like fushia.  Prettier than rasberries.  As I was straining the liquid I had all sorts of visions of faux pink lemonade and other pink beverages dancing through my head.  It also made me decide to do Rhubarb jelly... I don't normally do jelly (I do jam... you know the difference, right?) because it's more finicky than jam and is far higher in sugar/lower in fruit.  But I want to do just half a dozen so half pints of rhubarb jelly to give as gifts.  So pretty.
The lovely pink juice of rhubarb- the picture doesn't do it justice.

So for the next 8-10 weeks I will be cutting a little rhubarb here and there for my various endeavors.  I'll let you know how the rest of them turn out:)


Brianna said...

I hope that strawberry rhubarb crisp is on the menu for when I visit! ....if I visit that is. I forgot I have mom's car for the next couple of weeks and she said I couldn't drive it that far.

Jenn the Greenmom said...

Those pickles ARE pretty! It's a sweet-hot pickle recipe, then? That looks (and sounds) yummy!

Jamie said...

I'm dying to know how the rhubarb soda is!? It looks so pink. I want some.

The picked rhubarb...I'm not sure about that. You'll have to let me know. I like pickled everything, but Rhubarb I associate with sugary treats.

Brandislee said...

The Soda- well, we had a little incident... the incident being that one of the four bottles I was fermenting EXPLODED after only five days (it's supposed to ferment for like 2 weeks). Thankfully while no one was home, because it had some trajectory. So, fearful that the others may do the same, I let the pressure out of the bottles, let them ferment another 24 hours to get fizzy again, and then put them in the fridge. I thought it was good when I first tasted it, but then Scott tasted it and said it tastes like a perm, and of course after he said that it was ruined for me. But Izzy really likes it. Plus I really don't think it fermented enough- I think what happened was I didn't stir in the ginger bug, so most of it was in the one bottle that exploded. Plus the top of the fridge is too warm for fermenting in the summer (duh).

The pickles are actually good- they're not very spicy, just a little bite to them from the chilies. They're hard to describe... sweet, tart both from the vinegar and the astringent taste of the rhubarb.

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