Saturday, 15 June 2013

If you could only grow one fruit ...

Posted by Rosie

... what would it be?

Chopped Rhubarb
I ask this because for the past few weeks I have been picking and cooking rhubarb .... and I am still not bored of it!  Other fruits are great but limited in what I (can) do with them.  I love blackcurrants in jam, on cheesecake/pavlova and bottled; the first warm strawberry from the garden is delicious but my enthusiasm for them wanes when I have been stooped over picking them for an hour or so.  Likewise with many of the soft fruits I grow - I love them but many are time consuming to pick and none are as versatile (or as easy to pick) as rhubarb.  A few quick yanks of suitable stems, leaves cut off and either composted or used to make a natural pesticide and I'm back into the kitchen in no time at all to start chopping.

So, what have I done with the rhubarb?

  • Baked in the oven and eaten with thick yoghurt or on top on cereal for breakfast
  • Crumble - of course!
  • Compote which I have bottled
  • Slices in syrup, also bottled
  • Rhubeena - in other words rhubarb cordial, which the boys love on their cereal and I love both in fruit salads and over ice cream  We even occasionally drink it in the manner proposed or add it to fromage blanc for home-made lollies.
  • Frozen - ready for more rhubeena and crumbles through the winter
  • Rhubarb cheesecake
  • Rhubarb and ginger jam
  • Rhubarb and date chutney - Ben's absolute favourite.

Rhubarb and Date Chutney
I have also found a recipe for rhubarb and elderflower frangipan tarte and a slightly weird Asian dish called rhubarb and beef khoresh; weird because at the end of cooking you strain off and discard the beef!  It does however suggest another recipe where you can use the beef, thank goodness.  I have yet to try either of these and according to some I may need to be quick.  As you may be aware, the leaves of rhubarb are poisonous due to their high oxalic acid content and during June this oxalic acid begins to move down the stem.  That said I have picked and eaten it much later in the year with no apparent ill-effects and this page from the RHS deems it safe to eat into August if the plant continues to crop suitable stalks. In that case I may well have more to pick and should get the chance to make both the frangipan tart and the khoresh. 

This year I have had help with all the picking and chopping.  Sarah, our latest volunteer helper from Taiwan will now return to her native homeland armed with the array of recipes above that she helped me prepare.  Initially she did not recognise rhubarb but a quick Google in Chinese revealed that in fact she did know he plant, but in a very different form.  The dried root is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine - details here. Sarah is however not sure whether she will be able to buy the stalks to use fresh.

Do you have an all time favourite fruit that you could not live without?  Do let us know ... and if you visit us here at Eco-Gites of Lenault at the right time of year you may well be able to taste some of the many fruits I grow in the garden and orchard.  Oh and if you have any more rhubarb recipes do let me know ... just in case I get bored of the ones I have already made!

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