One of the joys of the temperate climate is that mysterious plant called rhubarb. Its origins go back almost five millennia — the Chinese used it for its medicinal properties, but it also grows thickly on the banks of the Volga.
Growing up in Israel with a mother who had grown up in the rocky, arid mountains of Jerusalem, rhubarb was not on my radar. While it does grow in Israel, it’s really not eaten much there. My British-born husband planted a rhubarb bush in our yard when we bought this house back in 1994, but I never paid it much attention until a few years ago, when I started to get interested in local food and traditional recipes.
When harvesting rhubarb, remember that only the stalks are edible. The root has been used for medicinal purposes but as it is quite a strong laxative, I would not recommend eating it. The leaves are full of oxalic acid, and again are not recommended for eating. Some people use the leaves against ants in the garden — we have not found them very effective but maybe we are doing it wrong. If you have a method that works, please share!
When looking for rhubarb recipes, I found this one for stewed rhubarb to be quick, easy and amazingly yummy, especially with home-made vanilla ice cream:
6 cups fresh rhubarb, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon freshly ground ginger
About ½ cup water
½ - ¾ cups raw honey
Place rhubarb, ginger and water in a pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook about 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb disintegrates. Allow to cool and stir in honey to taste.
It’s from Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. The title is hilarious but the recipes are really, really good. Fallon is founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation, a non-profit organization devoted to bringing back traditional foods and food arts.
Our local farmers markets will provide you with wonderful real food, if you will venture out of the supermarket and visit them. Even more fun is growing real food and cooking it ourselves. If you don’t have much space, you can put some herbs or a tomato plant in a container on your window sill or on your deck. Strawberries do well in hanging baskets, which have the added advantage of being out of the reach of bunnies.
How do you enhance your life with real food?
Hadass Eviatar is a community correspondent for West Kildonan. Check out her blog at: http://hadasseviatar.com/blog.