The First Rhubarb of the Year
One of the joys of the temperate climate is that mysterious plant called rhubarb. Its origins go back almost five millennia – the Chinese used it for its medicinal properties, but it also grows thickly on the banks of the Volga.
Growing up in Israel, with a mother who had grown up in the rocky, arid mountains of Jerusalem, rhubarb was not on my radar. While it does grow in Israel, it’s really not eaten much there. My British-born husband planted a rhubarb bush in our yard when we bought this house back in 1994, but I never paid it much attention until a few years ago, when I started to get interested in local food and traditional recipes.
When harvesting rhubarb, remember that only the stalks are edible. The root has been used for medicinal purposes, but as it is quite a strong laxative, I would not recommend eating it. The leaves are full of oxalic acid, and again are not recommended for eating. Some people use the leaves against ants in the garden – we have not found them very effective, but maybe we are doing it wrong. If you have a method that works, please share!
When looking for rhubarb recipes, I found this one to be quick, easy and amazingly yummy, especially with home-made vanilla ice cream. If you have difficulty reading it, click on the picture to see a bigger version. It’s from Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. The title is hilarious but the recipes are really, really good.
Sally Fallon is the founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation, a non-profit organisation devoted to bringing back traditional foods and food arts. It’s not really a paleo or even primal kind of approach as it is firmly rooted in the agricultural revolution – grains are soaked before use, but they are used. Dairy should be raw if possible, of highest quality under the circumstances if not. Fruit and vegetables should be fresh and organic, local if possible. Meat should be grass-finished, chickens and eggs pastured, and fish wild-caught. Doesn’t it sound like a wonderful world?
Most of those options are available right here in Manitoba. Local farmers will sell you fruit, vegetables, meat, eggs and local honey, while fish from our inland sea here and other lakes is guaranteed to be wild-caught.
Raw milk, unfortunately, is illegal here, while Slurpees are available on every street corner. I would love to see an actual study showing the health effects of both beverages over time, but it’s unlikely to happen – there isn’t much money to be made in real food. But it is important to realise that we are not prisoners of the agro-industrial complex, that we can make our own choices. Good food is not as expensive as they would have you think, especially in the summer.
One easy and inexpensive way to get more real food into our lives is to grow it and cook it ourselves. If you don’t have much space, you can put some herbs or a tomato plant on your window sill. Strawberries do well in hanging baskets, which have the added advantage of being out of the reach of bunnies.
If it is too much trouble to pick your own fruit, there’s always Fruit Share!
How do you enhance your life with local fruit from your garden?