May 2011: Rhubarb

When I was a little girl, my mother’s garden had a huge leafy bush that seemed to take over the back half of the yard.   That rhubarb became my first taste of the fruits of my mother’s garden. After the rhubarb of spring, I knew my life would soon be filled with fresh green beans and strawberries (often snatched and snacked upon while standing in amongst the plants).

Rhubarb is available this month in the gardens of Vancouver, so I thought I would pay homage to that leafy bush from my childhood.

When purchasing rhubarb from the store, you get the edible red and green stalks. If you are picking rhubarb from your backyard,  be sure to remove all of the leafy parts from the stalks, as rhubarb leaves are poisonous.

Beyond being a lovely memory from my childhood, rhubarb is a good source of calcium and of vitamin C, according to my friends at the UBC Seeds Project.

Since rhubarb is so tart, it tends to be cooked with a lot of sugar, often served in the form of desserts.  In order to expand rhubarb’s horizons (and healthiness), I thought I would offer you some other uses for this colourful plant.

I love honey rhubarb sauce, as it is sweetened with honey and can be poured over baked chicken, pork, tofu and wild rice. How about making this delicious salad for lunch at work?

Rhubarb strawberry salad with fennel and sunflower seeds

Chop 3/4 pound of rhubarb into  1/2-inch pieces, then roast it with a   1/4-cup honey in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about five minutes. Set it aside to cool.  Whisk together two tablespoons olive oil and two tablespoons apple cider vinegar, adding salt and pepper to taste.  Core the fennel then thinly slice it, and mix it with 1/2 pound of washed salad greens and chopped strawberries.  Add the sunflower seeds and rhubarb, and pour on a light coating of the dressing.

If you would like to add some protein, toss in some hemp seeds or chopped grilled chicken!

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