By Montana Grant

Posted: June 10, 2023

Rhubarb is in full leafy growth, just in time for Strawberry season. Each Summer, I harvest several crops of this unique, healthy, and tasty plant. Rhubarb can sometimes be found in ditches or along the edges of old farmers’ fields and roads.

Pioneers loved this healthy and versatile plant. You can also use the sap of the stalks as an antibiotic or healing ointment. Pioneers, and Native peoples would carry it with them. It would be planted near campsites and gardens. Rhubarb is also perfect for issues of constipation.

Rhubarb is also known as the “Pie Plant.” The edible stalks will return each year. You can dig up the Rhubarb roots and transplant them. I have often found this plant growing in very remote areas.

One season, I was working as a Hunting Camp Cook and found a ditch full of this plant. It made a nice sauce. I did not have any strawberries on hand, but I did have a can of blackberries, for a cobbler. Use what you have. I have combined rhubarb with apples, peaches, bananas, and whatever berries are on hand. The sauce is similar to a compote.

Rhubarb is a perfect greenhouse plant. In a controlled, humid environment, the stalks become redder and sweeter. It is also a great plant that needs almost no care. They do great in direct sunlight and serve as erosion control plants, or shade providers, along a gardens edge.

The leaves of the Rhubarb are poisonous! Do not eat them. Leaves do add good chemicals to mulch. It is also a good gardening trick to cover the soil at the end of the season, with the large Rhubarb leaves. They protect the soil and add nutrients as they decay.

The edible stalks can be used for a variety of tasty treats. Desserts, pies, pickles, ice cream, sauces, teas, and crumbles. Add some diced pieces to a fresh salad for celery like crunch. Rhubarb can be frozen, canned, or dried.

My Mother made the best Rhubarb Strawberry sauce. Our annual tradition was to harvest wild Rhubarb, along some local trout streams, and then pick strawberries. She would cut off the leaves and cut the stalk into pieces an inch or so long. The cut-up pieces were put in a pot with water and slowly cooked down. If the sauce was too thin, she added more pieces, if it was too thick, she added water. A few drops of red food coloring also brightened up the dish. When the Rhubarb had cooked apart, she added a few bowls of sliced strawberries and sugar to taste.

RHUBARB and STRAWBERRY SAUCE (make these recipes your own by adding or changing them as your tastes desire)

3 cups rhubarb pieces

1 cup water

½ cup sugar or 2/3 cup of Splenda.

1 cup sliced strawberries.

¼ cup of honey

¼ tsp salt

3-4 drops of red food coloring

1 tsp. Vanilla

¼ tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp of lemon juice

Cook ingredients until mushy and soft. I add the strawberries last, after the rhubarb breaks down. A potato masher can help stir, crush, and mix the rhubarb chunks.

To make a Rhubarb Strawberry Pie, add ¼ cup of flour or cornstarch to the sauce as a thickener. Dump into a pie crust. I usually add extra sliced berries to the top before adding the top crust. Place slits in the top crust and expect some leakage. Place foil under the pie to make cleanup easier. Bake at 350-400 degrees for 40-50 minutes, or until the juice is bubbling through the crust.

To change the sauce into a Crisp, add 2 cups of oats, 1/3 cup of brown sugar, 1 stick of butter, and 2 tbsp of corn starch. Cut in small pieces of butter, oats, and brown sugar. Place the entire mixture into a baking dish or Dutch Oven. Bake for 30 minutes at 350-400 degrees. This recipe will have more texture and is like a crumble.

This sauce was eaten plain or applied over pound/ angel food cake or ice cream. You can serve as a side dish or top off your ice cream with this delicious treat. A little whipped cream adds more fun. Extra jars and tubs can be frozen or canned for later.

Dig up some great recipes online or in older cookbooks. Rhubarb can also be made into bread, muffins, and jams.

Montana Grant

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