Memories of Mother in Stalks of Red: A Rhubarb Story and Recipe
~ by Gail Sauer ~
Growing up, opening the garden in the spring was always a delight. Dad would turn the soil and mom would organize the seeds into a map of the potentially plentiful rows of organic produce. Our family had a system – and you were bound to be involved, whether you liked it or not!
The “cold crops,” as dad would call them, would go into the soil well before Mother’s day. The “warm crops” would wait until the long weekend in May. And somewhere in between, there was rhubarb – the reliable, red stalks of bliss. Rhubarb is a low maintenance plant – it comes back up every year with almost no care. All it asks for is a place to hibernate for the winter and a little sun in the warmer months. Easy to grow and gratifying to harvest, rhubarb offers the consumer large doses of calcium, vitamin K, vitamin C, iron and manganese – supporting bones and vitality! The fiber in rhubarb naturally aids in bowel function and the pigmentation that turns rhubarb red contains a naturally occurring cancer fighting agent called parietin.
If you haven’t seen a live rhubarb plant before, you probably have seen rhubarb stalks in the grocery store ... and you probably haven’t purchased them for lack of knowing what to do with them.
By Mother’s Day, the rhubarb would be screaming for harvest. My enthusiastic mother and I would walk out to the garden with a knife. Before I was old enough to wield the knife myself, my mother would cut the red stalks down at the base and give the knife a good swift swing in the air – and SNAP, the large leaf was cut clean from the top. Then the stalk would go in the basket and we’d be onto the next. It was a ritual for her to remind me that “the broad leaves contain poison (oxalic acid), so you always cut those off before bringing the rhubarb in.”
When we got into the house, mom would stew up the rhubarb (see recipe below). Although, I found it quite an indulgence, not everyone shared mom’s enthusiasm: dad’s loathing of rhubarb somehow justified his second serving of ice cream!
To this day, we have a large patch of rhubarb in the back garden. My mother has been gone for many years and can no longer harvest her own rhubarb, so I go out on Mother’s day and harvest it for her. It has become a ritual to gift my husband’s mother with a bunch of rhubarb every year – which she stews … and enjoys over ice cream.
- medium bunch of fresh cut rhubarb, chopped
- juice and zest of 1 large orange
- 4 ½ - 5 tablespoons organic honey
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, chopped
- 2 tablespoons filtered water
- ½ vanilla pod (halved lengthwise)
- Coconut Bliss Vanilla Ice Cream or plain coconut yogurt (for serving)
In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the rhubarb, orange juice and zest, honey, water and ginger. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, until the rhubarb is soft and cooked but still holds its shape.
Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod and mix into the vegan ice cream or yoghurt. Serve the warm rhubarb on top of the vegan vanilla ice cream or topped with a large dollop of vanilla coconut yoghurt.
*To add a twist, add homemade vegan granola to the top!*