It’s rhubarb season again! A caveat for those who might not know: rhubarb leaves are poisonous; the long, red or green stalks (stems) are the edible part, and the blossom stalks need to be removed if and when they show up.
Called an “ornamental edible” in the “Sunset Garden” book, rhubarb is a large and long-lived perennial. Placed in an out-of-the-way corner of your garden or yard, it will produce a supply of lovely stalks from mid-spring until really hot weather sets in. (There is a strictly ornamental rhubarb — rheum in garden books — that grows 6-10 feet tall in more temperate areas. It’s not edible and makes almost no stalks, just leaves).
Several edible strains of rhubarb are available in local nurseries and catalogues. “Victoria,” which seems to show up everywhere, has greenish stalks and green flesh.
Because I prefer the red stalks, I prefer the strains “Cherry,” “Valentine,” and “Canada Red.” They’re all good.
Rhubarb is easily divisible and transplantable, so if you have an old patch, it could have been shared by a long-ago friend and who knows what it is! If the stalks are tasty, enjoy it.
Botanically, rhubarb is usually classed as a vegetable but used as a fruit. A simple compote of baked or stewed rhubarb makes a tasty side for pork or duck. However, I, too, usually use rhubarb as a fruit, with the addition of quite a bit of sweetener.
Over the years of this column, I’ve done several rhubarb recipes but never a pie, so here’s an easy pie from an Alaskan friend many years ago.
ALASKA RHUBARB STREUSEL PIE
This is an open-faced (one crust) pie, baked with a streusel topping.
Serves 6 to 8
Make the crust:
Begin by buttering a nine-inch pie dish and setting it aside.
Mix the following ingredients with a pastry blender or by hand:
1 cup flour
1/3 cup vegetable shortening (I use butter flavor Crisco)
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
Add about three or four tablespoons of cold water and mix well to make a nice dough.
Roll out and line your nine-inch pie dish (make a decorative edging if you want).
Make the filling:
Mix the following ingredients in a medium bowl and put them in the pie dish:
4-5 cups rhubarb, cut in fairly small pieces
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 beaten egg
Make the streusel topping:
Mix the following ingredients by hand or in a food processor:
1/2 cup very cold butter
1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
Pinch of nutmeg
Spread the topping over the rhubarb and bake about 50 minutes at 400 degrees, or until the topping is nicely browned and the filling is bubbly.
Cool a bit before serving with ice cream or whipped cream.
Note: This pie sometimes bubbles over, so place it on a cookie sheet or aluminum foil to catch drips while baking.
David and Muffy Vhay own Deer Run Ranch Bed and Breakfast. Contact the ranch at 775-882-3643.