Friday, March 18, 2011

Raising Rhubarb

Did you ever eat the raw stems of rhubarb dipped in sugar?  I planted these for my husband, whose memories of the tangy sweet treat are fond.

This sweet little darling, Victoria, is reaching for sunlight to green and grow its ancient-looking leaves.  We have several planted in our little landscape, between ornamental perennials and container plants.  Last year was all patience, getting our tubers settled in.  But this, this will be a light harvest year if all goes well.  And 2012 will bring the bounty.

Rhubarb provides a magnificent prehistoric look to the landscape, similar to Gunnera but of much smaller stature.  If its rugged charm doesn't disarm you, and you're not content to allow edible plants idle in your landscape, tempt your friends and family with a rhubarb-strawberry crumble (recipe from Cooking Light, 2004).  And if the weather's right, make it an easy dutch oven dessert on your next trip to the mountain or the coast.

1/2  cup  all-purpose flour
1/2  cup  quick-cooking oats
1/3  cup  flaked sweetened coconut
1/4  cup  granulated sugar
1/4  cup  packed brown sugar
1/4  cup  chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
6  cups  (1/2-inch-thick) slices rhubarb (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2/3  cup  granulated sugar
2  tablespoons  cornstarch
Cooking spray
1/4  cup  strawberry spread (such as Polaner All Fruit)

Preheat oven to 375°.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and the next 4 ingredients (flour through brown sugar) in a medium bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Combine rhubarb, 2/3 cup granulated sugar, and cornstarch in a large bowl, tossing to coat. Spoon rhubarb mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Drop strawberry spread by spoonfuls over rhubarb mixture; sprinkle with oats mixture. Bake at 375° for 40 minutes or until browned and bubbly.

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