Homestead Kitchen – Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb

Good, old fashioned rhubarb; it’s one of those things that polarises people. In fact, we’d go so far as to bet the bar diagram resulting from the survey question On a scale of one (being  I’d rather gouge my eyes out with a rusty spoon) to ten (Gimme, gimme, gimme), how would you fancy rhubarb crumble for pudding tonight? would have more in common with the Huntly power station than the usual Manhattan skyline.  That’s how it is here on the Homestead anyway: split perfectly with three opting for no dessert and three fighting to shovel the shunned helpings onto their plates. When it comes to rhubarb,there’s just no, “It’s okay.”

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Just enough for a taste

In our previous Homesteads, the likelihood of any kind of rhubarb dish becoming a menu staple was not high. Generally we’d receive a couple of meals, tops, from our straggly, sad looking plants if we were/weren’t lucky (depending on which of the power station chimneys you were on) and that was our lot.  Here?  Oh, here at Union Homestead it’s a different story. 

It may be the soil that makes our rhubarb such a vigorous grower, or the variety (the heirloom, Victoria) or maybe the fact that nearly all our scraps, scrapings and meal preparation trimmings (but ironically, not those of the rhubarb plant itself) go through either a chicken or goat before ending up in the compost we fling under the plants. As an aside, see how we said “plant” there?  Apparently, it has managed to polarise even those tasked with the classification of the Rheum rhabarbarum. Technically a vegetable (a plant or part of a plant used as food) as opposed to a fruit (the sweet and fleshy product of a tree or other plant that contains seed and can be eaten as food), in the USA a 1947 New York court ruled in favour of it being lumped in with the apples, oranges and bananas on the basis of that being how people ate it. Fruit or Vegetable, it grows rather well here in our little patch of earth and Glory, Glory Hallelujah or *insert suitable antonym – Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen, perhaps – by visiting each of our three plants we have managed to put together our first rhubarb taste of the  season.

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How do we like it?   Add a little sugar, maybe some vanilla, perhaps some cinnamon, serve it hot, cold, stewed under a crumble, bubbling under a sponge topping, stirred into our breakfast porridge, with custard, with ice cream, with cream, dusted with icing sugar or slurp it up all on it’s own.  For this first harvest, though, we’re going making a bit of a fuss. 

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Don’t feel too bad for the HRH (Homestead Rhubarb Haters); there’s boysenberry ice cream in the freezer and everyone loves that.

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11 thoughts on “Homestead Kitchen – Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb

  1. Three of us love it and the one kid eats a few spoonfuls to be supportive and because I make her. You’re right about the polarization. Hubby had not experienced rhubarb till he met me. I don’t think his parent’s British background was recent enough (he’s far more Canadian than me – his Dad’s side goes back 300 years on PEI), while I’m only a second generation Canadian. Think nationality might skew your skyline? Rhubarb crisp is the number one choice, followed by stewed rhubarb with custard, or with cream. Or with strawberries in pie. Rhubarb wine – we made some for our wedding (a long time ago) that was very nice. I eat stewed rhubarb for breakfast in season. I often freeze some to make muffins, but invariably lose the bag of chopped rhubarb in the nether regions of the deep freeze. I was a bit starved for rhubarb for few years, as my patch died out, but someone was dividing theirs a year or so ago and gave me the leftover bits, which thrived for me, so that the last three years, I’ve had more like my usual consumption level of the stuff. Huntly Power Station – our tour stopped in Huntly for a photo op and coffee break, not, I have to admit, a highlight of my trip to NZ…

    • Please let me apologise on behalf of my entire country for the hideous “comfort stop” at Huntly. I have been subjected to it only once (when my plane was diverted to Auckland) and am still blushing at what we subject our international visitors to. Maybe this will make up for it…a little bit anyway. I think, having been there, done that, you’ll apprericiate it 🙂

  2. My kids eat the ghastly stuff stewed with a little honey and custard or yoghurt but that rusty spoon sounds really good to me. I do try it on occasion but to me the idea of apple and rhubarb crumble is tantamount to treason against a perfectly harmless and regal apple crumble. 😉 Still, I’ve planted the stuff, growing from seed and root cutting from friends and I have bottles of it in the pantry too but yeah NAAA for me personally.

  3. Rhubarb crumble please! I live in what is know as the Rhubarb Triangle here so it would be practically a cardinal sin not to like this ‘vegetable’. I know some Bangladeshis who use it in curry so I guess for some it is truly a vegetable 🙂

    • I recently heard about the rhubarb triangle and how it can grow so quickly that audibly squeaks. Now I feel the need to moderate my claim of successful rhubarb growing – next to what you have on your doorstep, it’s pathetic 🙂

      I’ve noticed a lot of venison dishes seem to be served with a rhubarb sauce or jus or reduction or whatever. In a curry it would be awesome! Must give it a go…

      • Yes, I must give it a go – next year for me now, I think. My rhubarb doesn’t squeak, though it is hanging in there, not quite ready to have its winter sleep……

  4. I love rhubarb! Another blogger told me that rhubarb is a gross feeder; meaning it likes lots and lots of compost, manure etc. Some would say, as you point out, that rhubarb is gross, fullstop. A little orange peel and a slice or two of orange cooked with rhubarb makes it sweeter and more delicious; perhaps you know that trick already. 😉

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