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Random acts of rhubarb

The gift of rhubarb flourishes in my garden. (Michael Temchine for The Washington Post)

You wouldn't think a presidential election would change a garden, but the 2008 race changed mine. That year, political awareness in my part of town was so high that moms were organizing coffees and inviting speakers to discuss and debate the election. At one particularly contentious coffee, the talk turned (mercifully) to food and rhubarb came up.

I mentioned my obsession with all things rhubarb and how much I wanted to grow my own, to help satisfy my craving for rhubarb pies, crumbles and jams. Then I went home and forgot all about it.

A few weeks later, I got an e-mail from a stranger who had been at the party. The note gave me instructions on where to go and pick up some rhubarb crowns. So, like a spy making a secret pickup, I went to a street I've never been on, grabbed my plastic bag full of rhubarb knobs from the carport and drove away. I never spoke with the person who had left me the stash and not long after the election my computer crashed and I lost all my saved e-mails.

What I did have were the rhubarb crowns. We threw them in the ground and hoped for the best. The next year, the plants emerged. I wasn't able to harvest any because you have to let the plants keep all their stalks the first year. After the snow melted in late-March, my plants emerged and they're growing like crazy. I'm allowed to sparingly harvest the stalks this year, but luckily a little rhubarb goes a long way.

I'm using my rhubarb to make stuffed French toast, pies and preserves. My favorite way to use it is a Corn Bread-Crusted Strawberry and Rhubarb Cobbler, a recipe you may remember from my In Season columns in the Food section. Next year, I'll be able to harvest more. I'm told the rhubarb will take over the side garden I've planted it in.

I couldn't be happier.

-- Stephanie Witt Sedgwick, who writes the Food section's weekly Nourish column.

By The Food Section  |  May 13, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
 | Tags: Stephanie Witt Sedgwick, Tales of the Testers  
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Oh. My. God. Rhubarb-stuffed French toast. Please share!!! You have to share. I might die if you don't share. I might die of yummy goodness if you do share, but that's by far the better way to go. :)

Fellow rhubarb fiend here, just in case you couldn't tell. I've already had my first nirvana moment of the season, a few weeks ago when I went to the supermarket looking for radicchio. Found rhubarb instead, and decided stewed rhubarb was a perfectly fine substitute for baked radicchio.

Posted by: northgs | May 13, 2010 8:06 AM | Report abuse

I made rhubarb-ginger-mango jam (more like compote) last weekend and rhubarb coffee cake. Sublime.

Posted by: chiquita2 | May 13, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Back when I lived in the Midwest, we had some quite productive mulberry trees around. A just ripe mulberry is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, that peak seems to last about 15 minutes. Once the acidity fades, it's a pretty dull tasting berry. I suspect that's why I've never seen it cultivated commercially.

When gathering mulberries one time, I had an inspiration. Combine them with rhubarb! When making a jam or a pie, the rhubarb disintegrates, resulting in a lush dark purple fruit mix with the sweetness of a ripe mulberry and the acidity of a fresh one. I may have finally found a sufficiently productive mulberry tree near a friend's house and hope to try this recipe again.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | May 16, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

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