Rhubarb Mow Down, Chow Down

Small young rhubarb patch in a community garden. Vancouver BC 2017. Photo by J.Chong

Rhubarb started off on the wrong foot with my family.  Not until I was 16 years old, it dawned upon our family, the monstrous red stalk and big leafy bushes in our backyard, were rhubarb.

Alien Red Stalked Plant with Poisonous Leaves
When I was 10 years old, we were excited to have our first ever grassy backyard –even if it overlooked an electrical substation over our wire fence.  It was my parents’ first house in Waterloo, Ontario after all of us jammed into an one bedroom apartment, with 5 children for a few years.

After moving into our drafty, old house and  after kid number 6 was born, the following spring we noticed strange red stalks sprouting rapidly by our twisted purple lilac tree. We saw the rhubarb bushes as just another alien plant  — a tad wierder than our  gnarly, flaking bark lilac tree which twisted naturally in a large bonsai shape.

Rhubarb Henchmen
We tried to get rid of rhubarb  bushes by digging up the stalks. Then we took the gas lawn mower and cut it down.

Yes, we were savage and brutal to the rhubarb patches. We had 2 large patches.  Rhubarb is not at all part of Chinese culinary repetoire or culture. Hence, my immigrant parents were unintentionally rhubarb henchmen by sheer ignorance.  After several seasons of effort, rhubarb was truly decimated for good.

Only years later, did we slowly realize the giant leafy stalks were edible.

At spring farmers’ market. Vancouver BC 2017. Photo by J.Chong

Every spring for the past decade, Jack and I stock up on fresh spring rhubarb for fruit compote. Unfortunately here in Alberta, I can’t expect luxuriant harvests at the local farmers’ markets.   Often they ship them  from British Columbia next door, where there is more rain and earlier spring warmth to jumpstart rhubarb patches.

I enjoy  a well-made rhubarb pie or rhubarb crumble muffin.  However it’s easiest to boil up a rhubarb mixed fruit compote to plop over our plain yogurt and cereal.    We enjoy Jack’s homemade rhubarb compote that’s best nearly

Large dollop of homemade hot rhubarb strawberry-blueberry compote on plain yogurt. 2017. Photo by J.Chong

hot from the bubbling mess in the pot with blackberries, raspberries, strawberries  or blueberries.  He douses the stove batch with  whatever spice is available  –cinnamon, crushed anise seed, chopped mint, honey or maple syrup.  No sugar is used at all.  On the occasional whim,  less than a cup of white wine might be kicked into the batch a few minutes before done.  You don’t want to cook off the white wine.

Bounty of spring freshly cut rhubarb at Kitslano Farmers’ Market. Vancouver BC 2017. Photo by J. Becker

A far cry from the teenage rhubarb mow-down  — spring rhubarb sweetened with other fruit to grace a dinner finale.


17 Comments Add yours

  1. Peter Klopp says:

    Wow, six children crammed into an apartment! That even beats us with five boys in an 860 sq ft house without basement. Rhubarb dessert with whipping cream is one of my favorites.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Ah yes, um sweet memories of crowded homes! Kids slept out in the living rm. while baby was in same bedroom as parents. We violated the fire code probably.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So glad you found out that rhubard is edible 🙂
    I love the combo strawberrry/rhubard and like you I make compote. Which is healthier than the pie, although I LOVE pies too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Who can resist a well-made rhubarb pie? Yes, the downside is often the amount of sugar required to make a rhubarb pie edible. However come to think of it, I can see one could try the compote filling by plumping it up with cornstarch or similar thickener without the sugar..and keep the white wine in. However I have never heard of white wine as a sweetener in pie filling. Maple syrup might be another possibility. This might sound so unFrench to you? I’ve never seen French traditional rhubarb recipes. Same for German recipes. To me, rhubarb seems more….British.


  3. tuckamoredew says:

    Rhubarb pie is my all-time favourite. When I moved into my first apartment, it was one of the recipes I had my Mom write down for me.

    The compote also sounds tasty, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Very easy to make. For unclear reasons, this post is attracting comments and people who haven’t dropped by (or haven’t said anything) in the past 1/2 yr. or so. Must be the magic of rhubarb. 🙂


  4. Mabel Kwong says:

    Like you, I didn’t discover the goodness that is rhuburb until I was older. Actually, I only got to know it more a few years ago. Rhubarb pie with a crunchy crust is something I like. Rhubarb compote I’ve actually yet to try. Nice to hear that you don’t necessarily need to put sugar in it. I’d have to leave out the yoghurt since yoghurt generally doesn’t sit well with me – and I am sure it will taste just as good for a breakfast or a snack meal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Maybe the tartness of yogurt is not something for the tummy? For the past few years, I have a dollop of yogurt for nearly every breakfast before I bike off to work. Usually in cornflakes or oatmeal. Then add milk, fresh fruit..or compote. 🙂 A batch of compote can be made and kept in fridge for a few days. I will buy flavoured yogurt 1-2 times per month but wish to avoid regular habit because it’s sugared. I probably got into the yogurt habit because of being with my partner who consumes 4 times more yogurt daily than I. Rhubarb is something we only buy and prepare during spring months, rest we freeze.


      1. Mabel Kwong says:

        I just think yoghurt and me aren’t good friends. Also I’m not a huge fan of cold meals in the mornings, preferring something at room temperature or warm. Even fruit is considered ‘cold’ for my liking especially if it comes out of the fridge straight.

        Sounds like you love your yoghurt now, Jean 😛

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          I solve the warm food at breakfast by having tea with my breakfast. Then I go to work by bike (short distance) where I have a 2nd breakfast (coffee + something). I don’t have lunch usually. Or if I have a full-out lunch, then very little supper. I’ve been like this for many years.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Sue Slaght says:

    Jean I can understand that your family never having seen it prior would think rhubarb was a wild growing weed. My mouth is watering at the description of your husband’s compote. The adddition of other berries sounds delicious. My neighbour often offers up rhubarb. In years long ago I used to make pies but I haven’t made one in years. Thanks for the idea of trying compote!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      No kiddin’, rhubarb is like rainforest weed under the right spring conditions!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Sounds delish. I was told years back that some part of it is poisonous. ?


    1. Jean says:

      It’s the leaves that are poisonous.


  7. Mix Eat Learn says:

    Rhubarb is definitely top on our grocery list for the next trip to the farmers market. But we just recently started shopping at farmers markets (like a month ago) and being interested in all these local products. So I’m bummed that I missed the season this year but watch out spring of 2018! We’ll be Rhubarb-in’, baby!


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