A harbinger of spring. When the rose-reddish stalks are ready the vernal season is well under-way. Young and fresh every year. Tart tart tart and tangy. You can eat the herbaceous perennial raw, if you want. But don’t eat the leaves. The leaves are poisonous!
The leaves are large, triangular and nephrotoxic! The leaves have oxalic acid which can give you kidney stones and far worse! You can use the leaves to make a rust remover, but I’d rather talk about pie. Cut the leaves off and throw them away before you even take them into the house.
Rhubarb stalks that are not picked and have frosted over in the garden should also be thrown out! You can compost them, but don’t eat any. Rhubarb is tricky! Marco Polo exported rhubarb from China, where the root is the base for a tonic known to tone up and balance out one’s innards.
The USA’s founding botanist John Bartram brought seeds from London. Generally smart guy Benjamin Franklin made sure to put warning labels on the seed packets as the popularity of the stalk spread around the new nation.
Back to pie! Pie. You can add strawberries to the filling, if you have them. After you dice up the rhubarb, slice the strawberries add a cup and so of sugar, a couple table spoons of corn starch or thickener, maybe melt in some butter with cinnamon and there you go. Pie filling!
The crust is up to you, criss-cross, little stars or what have you. Bake 30 minutes, eat all la ice cream or what you like. Old Ellie makes the best rhubarb pie, in her old Colonial brick house across from the corner by Armstrong’s farm road. Ellie likes spring and spring means rhubarb pie. She may even play the piano for you.
Ellie’s ornate oak Baldwin upright may surprise you. The acoustic is as sharp and tart and tangy as a bite of raw rhubarb. Ellie will show you how to test when the rhubarb is best, and she’ll add a smiling joy to her piano playing sweet as her pie.
Old Ellie has seen the seasons come and go. She was there still last time I went by that house. She was getting the yard ready for spring, rake in hand and hoe ready. That house was built solid as Ellie. Real wood with rugs, no carpet for her. Solid ceramic tiles with furniture that lasts.