Rhubarb can be tasty when prepared right

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Lorna Marquardt

Is rhubarb a fruit or a vegetable? Actually, rhubarb is a vegetable that originated in China, Tibet, Mongolia and Siberia. In the American colonies, John Bartram, of Philadelphia, is credited with the first planting of rhubarb seeds in the 1730s.
Although rhubarb is a vegetable, for purposes of regulations in the United States, since it is used primarily as a fruit, it is counted as such.
Rhubarb is usually cooked and sweetened with sugar. It is called “pie plant” because it is often used as a pie filling. It can be eaten raw with a little sugar sprinkled on it, but it is commonly used with other ingredients to produce a dessert or sauce.
When preparing rhubarb, discard the leaves. They contain toxic levels of oxalic acid. Rhubarb stalks can be stored in the refrigerator for five to seven days, unwashed and sealed in an airtight plastic bag or tightly wrapped in plastic.
Rhubarb can be frozen by cutting the stalks into 1-inch lengths and placing in airtight bag, or by stewing and then freezing. It does not need to be sweetened before it is frozen.
Elaine Knope, a dedicated Shawano County Historical Society member and volunteer, recently visited Denmark. While there, Elaine’s daughter purchased a Danish cookbook as a gift for her mother. The book, “A Taste of Denmark,” written by Stig Hansen, contains many popular Danish recipes. I thought you might enjoy the Rhubarb and Raspberry Soup and Fruit Soup Biscuit recipes.
The Rhubarb and Raspberry Soup recipe serves four to six.
3 large ribs rhubarb
8½ cups water
5 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 tablespoons cornstarch
Trim the rhubarb and cut stems into ½-inch pieces, discarding leaves. Combine with 8 cups water, 2 cups raspberries and sugar in a heavy medium saucepan; mix well. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer for 30 minutes. Strain into a bowl, discarding the rhubarb and raspberry seeds.
Return the liquid to the saucepan and stir in the vanilla. Return to a boil. Blend the cornstarch with ½ cup water in a cup. Add to the saucepan and return to a boil, stirring constantly. Stir in 3 cups of raspberries and reduce the heat. Simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Adjust the sugar to taste. Ladle into soup bowls and serve with fruit soup biscuits.
This soup also makes a great warm-weather soup when chilled overnight and served cold. If it gets too thick in the refrigerator, thin it with a little apple juice or other juice.
Here is the recipe for the Fruit Soup Biscuits:
1¾ cups unbleached bread flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup sugar
Pinch of cardamom
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 egg
2 tablespoons water, at room temperature
Mix the flour with the baking powder, sugar and cardamom in a medium bowl. Add the butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Add the egg and water and beat at medium speed.
Roll the dough into a long rope 1 inch in diameter on a lightly floured surface. Cut into twenty-eight slices with a serrated knife. Roll each slice into a ball and arrange on a lightly greased 12x17 inch baking pan.
Place on the center oven rack and bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes. Cool in the baking pan on a wire rack until cool enough to handle. Cut the biscuits into halves and return cut side up to the baking pan.
Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees. Place the baking pan on the center oven rack and bake the biscuits for 10 to 12 minutes longer or until a light golden brown. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container for several days.
Serve with hot or cold fruit soups, such as Rhubarb and Raspberry Soup. They are good served in the soup or as a side.

Lorna Marquardt is a former Shawano mayor.