. . . which is a miracle of another sort! 🙂
How can any season compete with spring, for wreaking joy from the heart?
It has something sweet for every sort:
- For lookers–fresh beauty to gaze at, to photograph and enjoy.
- For breathers–the air is sweeter and fresher and coaxes you–quite unintentionally–to take big, cleansing breaths.
- For artists--much fodder for drawing, painting, photographing, ogling.
- For listeners–birdsong you haven’t heard for months. Pheasants making that weird cawing sound in the early morning. Coyotes doing their wild yipping and howling at night. Sounds of life.
- For walkers–it’s a gift to walk down the sidewalk or the road on a nice day, isn’t it? No ice underfoot, no icy winds to chap the cheeks.
- For gardeners–finally! Being able to fulfill months of dreams of planting and nurturing and crafting this year’s piece de resistance: the kitchen garden. 🙂 🙂 🙂
- For eaters–early spring wild delicacies: wild mushrooms, nettles, dandelion, lambsquarters, as well as early spring garden treats . . .
. . . and then there’s the rhubarb. The garden’s early spring gift to the faithful and the patient. I watch for those beautiful wrinkled leaves and pinkish knobs poking out of my garden soil very early in the spring, and when I spot them I feel a stab of joy.
At—last. Spring is here. It’s official.
Rhubarb is content to grow in so-so soil with very little care, but if you give it just a soupçon of attention (my mother has taught me to top-dress it with manure and heavy straw mulch in the fall, which makes for incredibly large, fruitful, and very happy plants). Keep the weeds down during the summer; don’t overpick it but let it rest in mid-to late-summer; and you’re good to go.
It’s nice that something in the garden is so straightforward and simple, eh?
Here are a few things you may not know about rhubarb:
- The color red in most rhubarb stalks comes from anthocyanins, the health-enhancing antioxidants that have received such acclaim in the past few years and are present in blueberries, blue tomatoes, dark purple veg, etc.
- In some areas of England, rhubarb is harvested by candlelight in rhubarb-forcing sheds, where all other light is excluded – a practice that produces a sweeter, more tender stalk, apparently. These sheds are dotted around the noted “Rhubarb Triangle.” (source: Wikipedia)
- Folks. There is a Rhubarb Triangle. I so want to go there, don’t you? Road trip! Okay, okay, Vacay!
I vote that we all drop what we’re doing for the next week and take a trip to The Rhubarb Triangle. Anybody with me? Really, wouldn’t it be enormous fun to answer that question: “where are you going on your vacation this summer?” with such an interesting answer?
Me? I’m going to spend a couple of weeks touring the Rhubarb Triangle.
- Rhubarb root has been used for medical purposes by the Chinese for thousands of years (like, I guess, just about everything else).
- Rhubarb first came to the United States in the 1820s, entering the country on the East coast and moving westwards with the European American settlers, like my great-grandma Young 🙂
- Rhubarb is actually a native of Siberia, which explains why it does so well in Nebraska. *rolling eyes* Same basic climate, possibly: harsh, too cold and windy in the winter, too hot and windy in the summertime.
I’ve written about rhubarb in this space before. And I will again. Forever and ever, amen and amen. Forevermore and anon. Check the bottom of this post for the recipes that I’ve already published. As long as spring comes afresh every year, as long as I can still tap, tap, tap away at my laptop, as long as I can still hobble out to my lovely garden, I’ll have new rhubarb recipes to share. 🙂
Dad brought up a distinct food memory this week: “Remember those rhubarb-walnut muffins Mom used to make?” he asked in a teasing way. He knows that making a comment like this will elicit a snort, a rolling of the eyes from Mom, and then possibly the delicacy in question, later in the week. Or possibly later in the day, if he’s lucky.
I did remember those walnut-rhubarb muffins Mom “used to make.” The last time she made them, I think she called me and hinted that if it was convenient for me to run into town (it was) she had hot muffins for me. I did run into town, and they were still warm enough to melt the butter I schmeared on them.
At this pleasant memory, I turned to Mom and begged for the recipe. I had to make some. Immediately. My mom is super at sharing, and so I have a new recipe to share with you, my darling Gentle Reader.
You’re going to love it, too.
- 1.5 cups brown sugar
- 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp soda
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 egg
- 1 cup buttermilk
- ½ cup melted butter
- 1.5 cups rhubarb, chopped fine (if frozen, use ½ cup more flour, to balance out the juiciness)
- 1.5 cups walnuts, slightly chopped and *toasted (carefully!)
- (optional) topping: Stir together 1 Tb melted butter + ⅓ cup brown sugar + ½ tsp cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix together all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
- Beat the egg, and mix the rest of the wet ingredients together with it.
- Stir the chopped rhubarb and toasted nuts into the wet ingredients.
- Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ones, using a light hand. Don't overmix!
- Sprinkle (optional) topping on top of each muffin.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, or until slightly brown on the edges and a toothpick comes out clean.
- (*Toasting nuts is risky business, but I always think it's worth the hassle. 🙂 In this case, I would set them into the preheating oven--in a bread pan works nicely--for 5 or 10 minutes while I'm mixing the rest of the ingredients together.)
If you take the time to freeze your superfluous rhubarb in freezer bags before the season is over, you’ll hopefully have enough to make these muffins during the winter, too. Nothing tastes better than rhubarb when you’re hungry for springtime!
Have a happy day, dear friends. And, say: why not make some muffins?
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