Amuse Bouche™: Weekly Musings on Food & Life

30Apr09

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April Showers, Bring Me… Rhubarb!

By Suzanne Lenzer

So spring has officially sprung. How do I know? The rhubarb has popped up, as has the asparagus. But let’s save the asparagus for another week; this week it’s all about rhubarb.

Funny story: we’re renting this old house up in Connecticut with a rather wild garden, one that makes each day a new discovery. But because we moved in late last summer, we only heard tales of the rhubarb patch from our landlords; we didn’t actually get to experience it. So this year I’ve been waiting with bated breath for my first crop, imagining the pies, tarts, chutneys, crumbles, and other wonderful things I’m going to make.

But back to the story: when we arrived last summer I cleared out the very overgrown vegetable patch to get some late summer lettuce in and try my hand at gardening. Well this year, as the first trees came back into bloom and the afore mentioned asparagus began to pop up, I was delighted by the abundance of what I took to be rhubarb off in one corner.img_1300

Then a neighbor who actually knows something about gardening stopped by and informed me that what I took for rhubarb was actually a huge swath of lilies. Uh-oh.

Could I, in my eagerness to clear our vegetable garden, have torn up the mature rhubarb? I did recall fighting a deep-rooted plant of some nature pretty hard. Panic set in. I called every nursery in the area; no one had any rhubarb. I was guilt-ridden, but I wasn’t deterred.

On my next visit to our local nursery I asked if they could order a plant for me. Alas, they had two plants in the back and I could have them (Yes, I’d already called them earlier in the week, but I guess the found some or something. No matter, all’s well that ends well).

However, Mary, the owner warned me. “It’s still early.” she said, “why don’t you wait a couple weeks and see if they pop up.” But I was having none of it – I would replace the rhubarb that I had most definitely yanked. I grabbed my plants and rushed home, ready to make amends and enjoy my rhubarb.

Saturday morning I got up early and planted my new acquisitions, along with a row of spinach, lettuce, arugula, leeks, and some strawberries. Then I set about trimming the hydrangea, when, what do you know, I looked down and saw two lovely rhubarb leaves popping up from the ground. Mary was right; it was early and there they were.

So now out I have four rhubarb plants and I’m just waiting for them to get bigger so I can cultivate and cook. And that’s the story. Except that in the midst of my saga, thinking I had a bumper crop to work with (the lilies) I found a recipe I had to make immediately. Realizing I had no rhubarb of my own, I cheated and bought some. On Easter I made this crumb cake, and while I can’t take any credit for it, I can say it’s awesome.

Unfortunately it was eaten up so fast that no pictures were taken. But not to worry. The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen and her pictures of this crumb cake are fabulous.

So do this: go to Smitten Kitchen and check out her Big Crumb Coffee Cake. Then make it. I promise you too will want to run out and get a rhubarb plant of your own.

 

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