Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rhubarb: the Beautiful, Edible Plant

Nothing says "spring is here" more deliciously than the giant ornamental rhubarb leaves in Lola's vegetable garden. The leaves are beautiful but poisonous. The red celery-like stalks are the edible part. Botanically, rhubarb is a vegetable, but the stalks are too tart to eat without the addition of sugar, honey or artificial sweetener such as Splenda. Rhubarb taste fruity when made into pies, muffins, or jams. It is exceptionally delicious with strawberries, so I always add a few cups to my recipe for extra flavor and nutrition.

The rhubarb plant above is three years old. My former neighbor gave it to me because her backyard is too rocky and shady, and the poor thing was not producing enough stalks for her favorite rhubarb and strawberry jam. I have been mulching the plant with compost and refrained from harvesting the few stalks last year. This year, the plant is established enough to share the harvest with the previous owner. And I decided to make my own version of the jam that she really like.

Her recipe for the jam had only three ingredients:

5 cups of chopped rhubarb
3 cups of sugar
3 oz strawberry flavored Jello gelatin.

I thought it had too much sugar, so I up the "fruit" to sugar ratio to 3:1. And as I mentioned earlier, I like strawberries with my rhubarb. Real strawberries. So I tried to tweak it some more to accommodate my own taste. My sweet tooth is not very sweet. I usually just drink plain water, or if I like some fizz, 3 parts carbonated water and 1 part pure juice. Juices, sodas and fruit flavored bottled water are just too sweet for my taste.

The jam is really easy to make. It also looks beautiful and it is delicious on toast, scones, yogurt, cheesecakes etc. It's a great way to enjoy rhubarb and strawberries off season, and it does not (I hope) send my blood sugar to the dreaded "Pre-D" zone.

LoLa's Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam

6 cups thinly sliced rhubarb
3 cups sugar (+1/2 -1 cup more if your strawberries are not very sweet)
3 cups chopped fresh strawberries
3 oz strawberry flavored gelatin

In a large heavy saucepan, combine rhubarb and sugar. Let it set for 5 to 8 hours or overnight at room temperature. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Add the strawberries. Stir and continue to boil hard for 6 minutes. Stir a few times but be careful and watch out for (hot) splatters. Stir in the gelatin. Turn off heat. Ladle the hot jam into sterilized jars leaving a 3/4 inch space on top. Let it cool at room temperature, then refrigerate or freeze. Do not store at room temperature. Only jams that are processed in boiling water bath can be safely stored at room temperature. Makes 3 1/2 pints.

1 comment:

  1. I love rhubarb in jam, pie,cake and on and on.