Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: Spring brings the fresh taste of rhubarb

Originating in China more than 2,000 years ago, rhubarb has many health benefits and is a tasty basis for chutney and desserts.

I cut my first rhubarb yesterday and made up a batch of rhubarb streusel muffins — so good!

Rhubarb is one of the first spring fruits and is probably one of the most versatile. Rhubarb can be baked into countless pies, cakes, squares, tarts, muffins, cookies, scones, breads, buns and more. It can also be made into chutneys, jams, sauces, wines and on and on.

Rhubarb originated in China way back in 2700 BC where its original uses were for medicinal purposes, particularly because of its purgative qualities. It is known to promote blood circulation and relieve pain in cases of injury or inflammation, inhibits intestinal infections, and can also reduce autoimmune reactions. It wasn’t until between 1790-1800 that it was brought to North America and cultivated.

Rhubarb leaves make an effective organic insecticide for any of the leaf eating insects (cabbage caterpillars, aphids, peach and cherry slug etc). Simply boil up leaves in water for 15-20 minutes, strain and cool. Personally, I’ll compost the leaves and use rhubarb for eating.

Today’s recipes include a nice chutney and a delicious dessert. Enjoy.

Rhubarb Chutney

2 lbs. rhubarb (after trimming)

1 lb. onions

1/2 lb. raisins

1/2 lb. sultanas

1/2 oz. coriander seeds

2 tsp. curry powder

6 oz. granulated sugar

3/4 pint raspberry vinegar or red wine vinegar

Cut the trimmed rhubarb into short lengths and chop the onions quite finely. Put both ingredients into a large pan and pour on the vinegar. Then lightly bruise the whole coriander seeds. Add the seeds directly to the pan if you want to include them in the chutney or you may prefer to tie them in a piece of muslin and remove before potting. Bring the contents of the pan slowly to boiling point, cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes or so to start softening the onion.

Add the dried fruits, sugar, curry powder and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Stir to mix well. Continue simmering, without a lid, for 1 1/2 hours or so until the rhubarb has pulped down completely, the flavour is mellow, and the colour is rich and the consistency is thick. Stir the chutney occasionally as it cooks to prevent sticking, particularly towards the end.

Seal in warm sterilized jars and allow to mature for at least one month before eating. The longer you can resist eating this chutney the better it seems to taste.

Rhubarb Dessert

l recipe for graham cracker crust

1 cup sugar

3 tbsp. cornstarch

4 cups sliced rhubarb

l/2 cup water

A few drops of red food colouring if desired

l/2 cup whipping cream (or Cool Whip)

1-1/2 cups small marshmallows

l pkg. instant vanilla pudding

Make graham crust in 8×8 pan. Bake and let cool.

Combine sugar and cornstarch, stir in rhubarb and water. Cook, stirring, until thickened. Reduce heat and cook 2-3 minutes. Add food colouring if using,  and spread mixture over cooled crust in pan. Let cool.

Whip cream and fold in marshmallows while whipping cream. Spread over rhubarb mixture. Prepare pudding according to package directions. Spread on top. Sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs and chill.

Garnish with strawberries if you like.  Kids love this.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist.

Vernon Morning Star

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