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June 2006 Issue
by J. Sinclair
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Rhubarb is a vegetable that is most associated with desserts. And while this tangy treat is perfect when paired with some sweetness in a dessert, I've found that it can lend its tang equally well to savory dishes as well. So this month, I'm sharing some thoughts about rhubarb and a couple recipes -- one sweet and one savory -- to whet your appetite.

Botanically speaking, rhubarb is considered a vegetable, but it's most often treated as a fruit — though it's rarely eaten raw. Just like fresh cranberries, rhubarb is almost unbearably tart on its own and needs the sweetness of sugar, honey, or fruit juice added to it to balance out the acidity. Rhubarb's nickname is the "pie plant" because that is the primary use for this vegetable.

Never eat rhubarb leaves, cooked or raw! Eating the leaves can be poisonous because they contain oxalate. This toxin, plus another unknown toxin also found in the leaves, has been reported to cause poisoning when large quantities of raw or cooked leaves are ingested.


Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

Though known as the pie plant, rhubarb can really shine in any dessert that would benefit from a tart kick. Here, it is paired with its springtime partner, strawberries, for a crisp that takes all of the flavor of a good pie with only a fraction of the effort. Serve it warm with vanilla ice cream for a special treat.
  • 5 cups diced rhubarb
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup large-flake rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Place the mixture in a greased 9-inch baking dish.

Combine the flour, sugar, oats and butter. Sprinkle over the rhubarb mixture.

Bake the crisp until the fruit is tender and the topping is golden brown, about 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes

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