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Sonoma County Gazette

Death By Rhubarb

Mar 29, 2018


By Kelly Smith

As you peruse the aisles of the farmers’ market this Spring, you may come across some stalks that look very similar to celery stalks but longer and a rich red color. If you didn’t know already you are looking at rhubarb, an astringent vegetable that can be cooked down with sugar to create a jam or to be served as an accompaniment to meat. Most often you find it in fruit pies although often I hear customers say they prefer only rhubarb in pie. To be honest I’ve only had rhubarb in pie but researching this article has definitely peeked my interest to try other options including the following recipe.

The history of rhubarb goes as far back as 2700 BC where it was cultivated for its roots to aid in digestion. The Chinese believed it aided in curing various stomach ailments and used for it’s purgative qualities. Although there is no scientific studies to support this claim word got out that it cured many emperors and kings and usage spread to Europe.

According to an article in National Geographic, the leaves are beautiful but toxic. In large doses, eating the large elephant ear size leaves can cause your throat to close. They contain high levels of oxalic acid, which is used in ink, stain remover and metal polish. When harvesting, focus on the stalk which is perfectly fine to eat.

Prime rhubarb season is from April to June. A rhubarb plant can be harvested for approximately 10 years without doing much to the plant. The health benefits of rhubarb include is ability to promote weight loss, prevent Alzheimer’s disease, stimulate bone growth, avoid neuronal damage, boost skin health, prevent cancer, optimize metabolism, improve circulation and protect against various cardiovascular conditions. If you love rhubarb all year round you can freeze it for later use.

Rhubarb CakeIngredients:

1 1/2 cups chopped rhubarb
(small bite-sized)

3 tbsp sugar

2/3 cup butter, room temperature

2/3 cup sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups unbleached flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup buttermilk

For the Topping:

1/3 cup butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar (white)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions: Spray 8 inch square pan with non-stick spray and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chopped rhubarb in a small bowl and toss with 3 tbsp sugar, set aside. In large mixing bowl, cream butter and (second amount of) sugar and beat in eggs one at a time, then add vanilla (you could do this part with an electric mixer if you want to, but do the rest by hand so the batter does not get over-mixed). In another bowl, mix remaining dry ingredients together and add to the butter/sugar/egg mixture alternately with the buttermilk, mixing just until combined. Fold in the sugared rhubarb and scrape batter into prepared pan, smoothing the top.

Mix topping ingredients together by hand into big crumbles and scatter them evenly over the batter. Bake cake at 350 for 45 minutes or done in the center.


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