The Savory Side of Rhubarb

Rhubarb chutney and the stalks from whence it came. (Kim O'Donnel)

Mother Nature’s ruby-red stalks from the buckwheat family don’t like the heat, so snatch’em, I mean hoard’em, while you can. Most folks --this cook included -- associate rhubarb with dessert because of her lip-puckering tang that begs for sweetness. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a sucker for rhube-y cake, buckle and fool (I even tucked some into a cherry cobbler last weekend). But lately, I’ve been wonderin’ -- as the rhubarb clock tick tocks away -- how I could enjoy her not just at dessert but with dinner now and (ideally) later this year.

The answer is a pot of rhubarb chutney, a sweet (dates) ‘n’ sour (apple cider vinegar) combo that cooks and acts like some of our other favorite saucy accompaniments, namely apple sauce and cranberry sauce. Mauve in color and sassy in flavor (with a little fresh ginger thrown in for kicks), the chutney likes to rumble with fat, so an oily fish such as wild salmon or lake trout is a perfect partner, and then in the fall, think roast chicken, duck, pork chops, and yes indeed, the Thanksgiving turkey.

So here’s what you do: Make a batch, see what you think, and if you find yourself swooning like I did, race to the farm market and get every last stalk and “put up” chutney for the cold months ahead. It freezes like a champ, and you will smile wide in November when you’re crying the rhubarb blues.

Should meat or fish not be part of your repertoire, think of grains to partner with your rhube. I loved it with bulgur and can imagine wonderful chemistry with quinoa, Israeli couscous and wheat berries.

Have you got a savory rhubarb trick to share? Please do before it’s too late!

Save the Date! The second quarterly EDF is June 20-26. To be included on the EDF Honor Roll, e-mail me with the subject line: “Eating Down the Fridge, Summer” and in your note, include your first and last name, city, state (and country, when applicable), by June 18. Check out the EDF Facebook Group page for 24/7 updates! Interested in guest blogging? Let me know by Friday, June 13.

Rhubarb-Date Chutney
Adapted from “EatingWell in Season: The Farmers’ Market Cookbook”

2 tablespoons (1/8 cup) orange juice
1/3 cup cider vinegar
¼ cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups fresh rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into 1-inch pieces
½ cup pitted dates, chopped

In a medium saucepan, add orange juice, vinegar, brown sugar, ginger and cinnamon and bring to a lively simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 5 minutes. Add rhubarb and dates, increase heat and bring back to lively simmer. Reduce heat and cook gently until rhubarb is fork tender, about 5 minutes. Rhubarb will puree on its own. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Makes about 1 ½ cups. Keeps well in the fridge for up to one week.

By Kim ODonnel |  June 4, 2009; 7:00 AM ET Spring Produce
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Thanks for this recipe; I'm going to try it this weekend. I've just discovered in the last couple of years how much I like fruit chutneys and this one sounds quite tasty.

Posted by: esleigh | June 4, 2009 12:41 PM

Sorry Kim, not me. Can't stand tje stuff, never have, never will. Chutney? Bring on the peaches.

Posted by: davidlewiston | June 4, 2009 5:08 PM

Sorry, I can't help myself. Garlic scapes are back! I'm so happy! Made pesto, sauteed in sesame oil, roasted in oven - I need more recipes!

Posted by: Jess65 | June 5, 2009 7:49 AM

Loved this! Served it with plank-roasted salmon. Thanks, Kim, for offering even more ways to enjoy rhubarb.

Posted by: ACCH | June 7, 2009 8:30 AM

thank you thank you thank you! now i just have to pray to find some still out there at the markets!

Posted by: alisoncsmith | June 9, 2009 8:42 AM

Kim, what kind of dates? Am I being silly and thinking they're fresh or dried?

Posted by: alisoncsmith | June 10, 2009 3:30 PM

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