June 3, 2013

Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb

Karen asks: How much of the green bit do you have to cut off rhubarb? And can you suggest any good recipes for it?

This is a very well timed question, since we were only discussing rhubarb at work today, as you do.

As my colleague had made a delicious rhubarb and custard cake, this effectively answers the recipe question:



And of course, you can never go wrong with a good rhubarb crumble. Ginger is a great accompaniment to rhubarb, so add a few slices of preserved stem ginger when stewing the petioles (or “stems” to you and me).

You also pose a very good question about the leaves; how many people know that they are poisonous? They contain a substance known as oxalic acid, which is really quite nasty. Fortunately, the leaves taste horrible and you would need to eat about 5 kg of them to achieve the lethal dose.

The stems contain only a small amount of oxalic acid and so they are safe; just remove the leaves near where they attach to the stems. However, it’s a good idea to remove them soon after picking, so as to prevent any seepage of toxins into the stems.

And now to the roots – or rhizomes, to be accurate. These are bloody good at giving you the shits! They have been used as a laxative in Chinese medicine for centuries.

An alternative to garlic?

I often quote from a cookery book that I read many years ago:

If you friends don’t like the smell of garlic, get new friends who do!”

This, I’m afraid, is going to colour my answer.

If you don’t have garlic in the larder, you have precisely two options:

  • Get your lazy arse to the shops and buy some.
  • Starve.

2 thoughts on “Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb

  1. How timely.
    The rhubarb is ready for harvesting here too.

    Along with compote, I use it to make rhubarb coffee cake and this year I’m going to try one or two recipes from here.

    Also, I had a neighbour who used to cut off all the green bits of stem thinking only the red was any good/sweet. Not true They’re the same–bitter requiring cooking with a sweetener. Leaves? That’s another thing altogether and K has warned you.

    asta on June 3, 2013
  2. I might try that rhubarb and custard cake. I stewed the bunch I had this afternoon with crystallised ginger and will eat it for breakfast. But there is more to come.

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