Hi everyone! Did you know that rhubarb is one of the earliest foods you can harvest on the homestead? I've harvested 2 batches already!! And it's not even the middle of May!! Any perennial food you can grow will not only be a great prep, but it will allow you to save money and enjoy fresh, delicious food. Rhubarb is just one of those perennial foods.
Rhubarb grows in beautiful red stalks with a great big green leaf on the top. It is a good source of vitamin C and fiber. It is quite tart, so it's best when paired with sugar or a sweet fruit, such as strawberries. You can eat it plain, cooked in pie, bread, or muffins, and make jam with it. Botanically rhubarb is a veggie, but in 1947 a New York court declared that since it is used in the U.S. as a fruit, it could be called a fruit. (Isn't that interesting?) The leaves of rhubarb are poisonous, so be sure to remove them. They can be thrown in with your compost. If you don't have rhubarb but know someone who does, ask them if they will divide it and give you a clump. You won't be sorry.
And now for the BEST tip for a great rhubarb harvest: Cover it with a pile of fresh chicken manure! That's right! In Spring, take 'hot' shavings fresh from the chicken house and completely cover your rhubarb. I got this idea from Jackie Clay who writes for Backwoods Home Magazine. I did it this year and I've got more and bigger, healthier-looking stalks than I've ever had in about 12 years of growing rhubarb! Woo-Hoo! Give it a try! And now for some recipes......
Rhubarb Muffins2 1/2 cups flour (I use 1/2 wheat)
1 1/2 cups backed brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups finely chopped rhubarb
sliced almonds (optional)
In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients. Combine egg, buttermilk, oil and vanilla; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in rhubarb. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups half full. Top with a few sliced almonds if desired. Bake at 375 for 16-18 minutes or until done. Makes about 2 dozen.
Pastry for 2-crust pie (I assume you have this, otherwise ask and I'll provide it)
1 1/3 to 1 2/3 cups sugar
1/3 cup flour
2 cups cut-up rhubarb
2 cups cut-up strawberries
2 tablespoons butter
Heat oven to 425. Roll out pastry and fill bottom of pie pan. Mix sugar and flour. Mix rhubarb and strawberries. Put half of the fruit into the pastry-lined plate; sprinkle with half of the sugar mixture. Repeat with remaining fruit and sugar mixture. Dot with butter. Cover with top crust; cut slits in crust. Seal edges. (Cover edges with foil or pie crust shield to prevent excess browning if desired. Remove during last 15 minutes of baking.) Bake 40-50minutes until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits. Enjoy! (I like mine warm with vanilla ice cream! Yum!)
Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam (from the Ball Blue Book)
2 cups crushed strawberries
2 cups chopped rhubarb
1 package powdered pectin
1/4 cup lemon juice
5 1/2 cups sugar
Combine strawberries, rhubarb, powdered pectin and lemon juice in a large sauce pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner.
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