Monday, May 2, 2011

Rhubarb Reminiscences

Amy's rhubarb

Olga and John’s garden.  The place where I learned that cucumbers were prickly. Where I experienced the novelty of picking a perfectly ripened tomato right off the vine for my bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich.  Where I discovered that an odd looking plant with stalks like red celery could be cooked into a sauce that tasted like summer and heaven-all rolled into one.


Olga and John 

Olga, and  John.  My great aunt, and great uncle.  John had been a rail riding hobo during the Great Depression, and Olga, embarrassed by her teeth, would often cover her mouth when her picture was taken.  I loved them both enormously.



They lived a magical life in Twin Falls, Idaho- in a tiny house with a huge garden out back.  I often think that everything, in my mind, that comprises the perfect way of life, was influenced by them.

Their backyard was my most favorite place of all.  I remember sitting around an old spool table, eating delicious meals cooked by my aunt.  My uncle, I remember, kept chickens, and I can still see them- perched up in the branches of trees.  They were his pets.  I recall drinking iced tea from glasses with different types of trout painted on them.

And always, rhubarb. Strange stuff, I thought, as a kid.  But oh so good.

Now I have my own rhubarb.  Three sturdy plants that get bigger each year.  And I couldn’t be happier.

Kona likes rhubarb 

(It looks like Kona appreciates rhubarb too!)

Below are two of my favorite ways to prepare rhubarb.  (Both, are even better with the addition of a little vanilla ice cream!)

rhubarb harvest


rhubarb crisp 1952

The sugar can be reduced to about 1 cup, and less salt and butter can be used as well.  (1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 cup butter for example.  I’m still experimenting with proportions to make this a more healthy version.)


I’ve modified this recipe a little bit as well:   I use about 4 to 5 cups rhubarb and 1 cup sugar.

There are many, many more ways to use rhubarb than these two recipes:  in muffins, breads, pies, coffee cakes.  Oh the possibilities…

Rhubarb is good for you too.  One 26 calorie cup contains substantial amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium.  Plus it is rich in antioxidants that benefit the heart and brain.


Thanks for the memories.


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  1. I've never prepared rhubarb (did I even have to write that?) but I love rhubarb pie. With vanilla ice cream. And I love these memories - I could picture your aunt's shyness and it touched me.

  2. Kim-you are so cute! I forgot to mention that rhubarb tastes even better when someone else does the baking:)

    My aunt was such a precious and sweet woman-I still miss her, and my uncle so much.

  3. Beautiful memories! I had a gorgeous patch of rhubarb until the hubby butchered it with the mower one year. Been trying to grow it ever since but it hasn't taken. This year I see little bits peeking out of the dirt, so I'm hopeful it's working this time!

  4. It should be ok Lisa-just throw some compost on it-that will make it happy:)

    I had to get my plants on ebay 4 years ago. I couldn't buy it anywhere in town-and when I'd ask at local garden centers I'd get some strange looks. Now it's the "in" crop around here and everyone has it for sale!

  5. I remember having rhubarb crisp once, long, long ago. It's been YEARS since I've tasted rhubarb! Now I might have to go get me some!

  6. I have a small vegetable garden, and my daughters and I love tending it, and enjoying the fresh food, especially the tomatoes. It's such a peaceful place to be, in the garden.

    And I love those flamingoes ... They'r a whole latte cuteness :)

  7. You make me want to grow rhubarb! I loved your memories about Oleg and John. They sound like a wonderful couple.

  8. Melissa-you should get some, and I have a lot more recipes too that I can share.:) Just tonight, we finished up the rhubarb sauce on ice cream. Yum!!!

    Joanne-isn't gardening one of the best pursuits in life? I love it too-and fresh tomatoes are so good. By the way, I like your comments a whole latte!

    Courtney-if you ever want to try growing rhubarb, I can give you some pointers. When I bought mine, my plants came with some good advice that helped me be a successful rhubarb grower:) I miss my aunt and uncle-they truly were wonderful "salt of the earth" people.