Suzi Mitchell: Cheers to a tarty tale
As I mentioned last week, our neighborhood is enjoying the bounty of next door’s enormous rhubarb plant. Thinking I should expand my repertoire from a stewed staple served over yoghurt, I have uncovered all kinds of weird and wonderful facts this week about my favorite fruit. So I thought I would share with fellow fans.
• Rhubarb originated in Siberia
• Herbalists used it in Chinese medicine treating toothache, burns and appendicitis.
• It is a natural laxative — enough said!
• Rhubarb originally was classed as a vegetable until the abolition of the Sugar Tax in 1874, when it was reclassified as a fruit. However this fact is debatable depending what you read. Some sources still think it is a perennial vegetable associated with the buckwheat family.
• In the early 19th century, rhubarb stalks were dipped in sugar and eaten by children as an early form of candy.
• Rhubarb leaves are toxic as they contain oxalic acid. The leaves can be used to make a natural insecticide.
• Due to its raw tart flavor, rhubarb first was used in soups, meat dishes and stuffing.
• It is a great option for preserving; in the UK it is often pickled with spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon.
Probably my favorite find is the following recipe that I sourced in Saveur Magazine. They called it the Rhuby Slipper or a Pink Princess. I switched the soda water for Prosecco, and call it Deceptively Dangerous.
Rosemary Lemon Rhubarb Spritzer Recipe
Yield: Makes about 3 cups of syrup, and 1 1/2 to 2 quarts of spritzer.
• 1 pound rhubarb, cleaned, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
• 2 cups water
• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
• 1/2 cup lemon juice
• Soda water or carbonated water
1. Put rhubarb pieces, water, sugar and rosemary leaves into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Rhubarb pieces will disintegrate.
2. Remove from heat. Strain out the solids with a fine mesh strainer. Add lemon juice. If too sweet for taste, add a little more lemon juice. Chill until ready to serve.
3. To serve, fill a quarter to a half of the glass with the lemon, rhubarb, rosemary syrup and the rest with soda water.
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