Monday, April 27, 2009

Rhubarb, the First Fruit

Rhubarb is the first fruit of the season. Some say that Rhubarb is infradig. What a heavy trip to put on a beautiful and ancient plant! I think that comes from the fact that it is too easy to grow. They said " If you can grow it on the prairies it can't be much of a feather in your cap" ! Practical people have got out of the feather and cap business. Do what works! I think there is something of a vegetable and fruit snobbery in the food business these days. People these days want something exotic they can't grow or won't grow. This may be because urban people don't have a big patch to plant perennials or else a limited knowledge of garden and cooking lore. Rhubarb freezes beautifully with or without sugar. It is easy to grow, provides a lot of product, is immune to disease and is free of pests. It's a gift to the novice with a deep dirt patch and a good compost pile. We lift and split the roots every four years and replant in a different part of the plot.

The pianist and I make 12 to 14 frozen rhubarb pies per year. Picking and preparation time is easy and rapid. We make the pies in cake pans, single thin crust, deep dish rhubarb so as to avoid getting all that pastry. Timing is everything for harvest as it will quickly run into Currant and Gooseberry season and the stalks decline here after June. Our variety is Victoria. I could never keep it plump long enough to combine it with strawberry ripening season. Some like the combination but we haven't tried.
The pianist likes the small stalks since her mother was of the opinion that the rhubarb sauce was redder. I like big stalks since they are faster to process. We work it out! There is nothing nicer than a rhubarb pie at Christmas for you and your children and grandchildren.

When one is born on the bald prairie at the height of the great depression you never totally escape the sense of dread that your parents induced in you that without basic food that you can grow or store, you are somehow naked and exposed. Take nothing for granted these days. Reduce your expectations and learn self sufficiency. Rhubarb gives you a big bang for your buck if you grow it yourself.

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