Rhubarb, of all local edibles, is a poster child for the what-should-be-done-but-isn’t. It’s a ridiculously cold-hardy, tough-as-nails, prolific producer of food that goes primarily into desserts as a ‘fruit’. We all know this. It’s a staple in older gardens, and most back alleys contain at least one derelict rhubarb. We all know this. Those who have it are willing to share, as its yields are copious – root divisions included. We all know this. Yet at the market this week, a bunch of a half dozen stalks or so was going for $2.50 and up. Clearly that’s not a lot of money. But to me that’s like somebody billing me – if only a modest sum – for breathing some air. It’s a teenie theft of independence. What I recently cooked down would have cost somebody $10-20. Orrrr free.
Rhubarb should be free. It should be inducted into the hall of fame of local foods, and shame should fall upon he who cannot figure out a source. The guy with the shopping cart collecting bottles in my back alley should really consider plundering rhubarb and selling THAT instead. HE can get hooked up. For FREE. [At $2.50 a yank, he could do pretty well, actually. In our neighborhood, he could even move on to horseradish once the rhubarb season is over]
My point here [at least I think I have one, other than the free thing..] is that a no-brainer local resource of free food, in a world that seems to be badly in need of precisely that, goes largely ignored and gets virtually zero respect. That’s shameful, no?. Our local food culture should be about exactly this kind of plant. But it is not. Hence my soap box. Hence my dozen or so rhubarbs throughout my yard. Yeah. A dozen. Rhubarb wine apparently ain’t that bad [note to aforementioned guy in back alley].
My favorite thing to do with rhubarb is dead simple. Chop it into 1/2″-3/4″ dice, cook it down with some vanilla bean, and some sugar. Until it’s kinda mushy buy still has a touch of texture. Not rocket science. But oh so tasty on its own [the norm for the first few feeds around here], with some goat cheese, on yogurt, in pie with strawberries, with dollops of cobbler atop it, with custard, scones, mixed with other fruits, whatever. Unpretentious, simple, local, healthful, FREE food.
Eat some rhubarb. But it’d better be free.