Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb- Forgotten Veg


Technically fruit I know, but how many people still have rhubarb growing in their back garden?

Rhubarb in situ
Rhubarb in situ

Rhubarb is a very very old plant.  It has been recorded for medicinal use in China since 2700BC, when it was classed as potent, and used for purgative effect!  Possibly introduced into Europe by Marco Polo, it has records of use in Italy in 1608.  Most of the rhubarb today is Rheum x hybridum.  And when introduced to Britain in the 14th Century, it cost more than opium, saffron and cinnamon.

Rhubarb stalks
Rhubarb stalks

Hannah Glasse is attributed with what is believed to be one of the first recipes for rhubarb in print in 1760, 13 years after her other famous ‘first’ – the recipe for Yorkshire Pudding. Her recipe in the Compleat Confectioner tells of taking the stalks of English rhubarb, cutting to the size of gooseberries, sweetening and making as you would a gooseberry tart.

Jam is a great use for rhubarb, especially towards the end of the season.  And very simple, but takes planning as the fruit is left overnight to macerate in the sugar.

Fruit and sugar ready to soak overnight
Fruit and sugar ready to soak overnight

and the next day it looks like this…

rhubarb jam in the making
rhubarb jam in the making

Once boiled and jarred, remember it’s best to boil the bejaysus out of it to the right consistency to keep the colour and flavour as good as possible.

Freshly made Rhubarb jam on Nigel's poolish bread
Freshly made Rhubarb jam on Nigel’s poolish bread

Another favourite, and old recipe is that for Rhubarb fool.  The phrase, “are you having the fool, fool?” is often bandied around the table.  In Ballymaloe there was much discussion on the contents of fool.  When we were growing up, it was stewed fruit added to equal quantities of custard and whipped cream.

Rhubarb Fool
Rhubarb Fool

But whatever way you have it, it’s delicious.

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