Saturday, July 21, 2012

Rhubarb in all its glory

Apparently (and perhaps this is a rural myth), prairie dwellers eagerly looked forward to the sprouting of rhubarb plants, amongst other green plants, after a long winter of no or little fresh fruit or vegetables.  Apparently it is a good source of fibre, Vitamins C and K, calcium and manganese. Regardless, it a bit of an odd item -- I remember chewing those young stalks, either plain (mouth-puckering fun) or dipped in sugar to fight against the extreme tartness. I can see how you would crave something fresh after you'd been subsisting on soft potatoes, old turnips, and a few other items you'd been able to squirrel away in different cool and dark spots.  Amongst many examples, I remember hearing from my grandparents and mother about dried fruit (my Oma Wiebe, dad's mother, who loved dried, sour cherries), canned vegetables, which had been prepared in a pressure cooker (Grandma Voth, who is mom's mother), and watermelons preserved in brine (mom). But the first fresh items that showed up in the spring were very welcome! And rhubarb is one of those plants which shows up early in the spring; it's hardy, came from Asia and Russia, and was one of the first "fruits" to appear on the land.

Here are definitions of the word RHUBARB as found at the website that purports everything for rhubarb ...
  1. Any of a genus (Rheum) of Asian plants of the buckwheat family having large leaves with thick succulent petioles often used as food
  2. The dried rhizome and roots of any of several rhubarbs grown in China and Tibet and used as a purgative and stomachic
  3. A heated dispute or controversy. 
A heated dispute or controversy... should rhubarb be placed in a food item that could be delicious all on its own?  One day, co-workers were having a sale of baked items to raise funds for a cancer group, and I discovered an amazing muffin, which led on to another and another... oh so fantastic.  And this item included rhubarb, so I thought I'd try it on the gang at home.  Kai decided in the last year or so that rhubarb has a place in his culinary palate; others in the home have now followed, given this delectable muffin recipe.  

Ready to Eat

   Here's the recipe, if your rhubarb isn't already all tough and overgrown.  Or if you've frozen some, ready for the next inspiration.  If using frozen rhubarb, let it thaw completely and drain, and your muffins will be truly wonderful.

Streusel Topped Rhubarb Muffins

Muffin Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar (I reduced this amount a bit)
1 tsp salt (I didn't bother)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup vegetable oil (I reduced this to 1/2 cup, especially when using drained, thawed rhubarb)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cups finely chopped rhubarb

Streusel Topping:
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp butter or margarine, melted
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Combine first 5 ingredients. Combine egg, buttermilk, oil and vanilla in another bowl, and stir into the dry ingredients gently. Fold in rhubarb. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin tins about half full.  Combine topping ingredients in another bowl and sprinkle over each muffin.  Bake at 375 degrees F for 16-18 minutes or until muffins test done.

(Recipe courtesy of

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