Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: Rhubarb: the fruity vegetable

It's a short but sweet growing season for rhubarb, and it means that spring is officially under way

Rhubarb is now available in most home gardens and local markets and is the first treat of the spring growing season.

This perennial vegetable (I know, most people think it’s a fruit) is a member of the sorrel family and thus is a vegetable. Only the stalks  of rhubarb are edible; the leaves contain a high concentration of oxalic crystals which are poisonous,  causing the tongue and throat to swell, seriously preventing breathing. However, the stalks are delicious and extremely versatile.

Rhubarb can be made into a huge variety of desserts, muffins, breads, cakes, cookies, chutneys, jams, jellies, juice, wine and more. It is high in vitamin C and fiber, but note that although you can pick it throughout the warmer seasons, for flavour and texture, it is best picked and used in the spring.

Today I offer a new square recipe for coffee time or lunches, and a dessert that everyone will rave about.

Rhubarb Bars

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sifted powdered sugar

1/3 cup butter or margarine

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 slightly beaten eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups finely chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb

In a mixing bowl, combine the 1 cup flour and the powdered sugar. Cut in butter or margarine till mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Pat the crumb mixture into the bottom of an 11x7x1 1/2-inch or 9x9x2-inch baking pan.

Bake in a 350 F oven for 12 minutes. In the mixing bowl, beat together sugar, 1/4 cup flour, eggs and vanilla. Stir in rhubarb. Pour over warm crust in baking pan. Return to oven and bake for 35 minutes more or till done. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Serve warm or cool. Store in the refrigerator. Makes 16 servings.

Rhubarb Dessert

l recipe for graham cracker crust

1 cup sugar

3 tbsp. cornstarch

4 cups sliced rhubarb

l/2 cup water

A few drops of red food colouring if desired

1/2 cup whipping cream (or Cool Whip)

1-1/2 cups small marshmallows

l pkg. instant vanilla pudding

Fresh strawberries, optional

Make graham crust in 8×8-inch pan. Bake and let cool. In a large saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch, stir in rhubarb and water. Cook, stirring, until thickened. Reduce heat and cook 2-3 minutes. Add food colouring and spread mixture over cooled crust in pan. Let cool.

Whip cream and fold in marshmallows while whipping cream. Spread over rhubarb mixture.

Prepare pudding according to package directions. Spread on top. Sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs and chill. Garnish with strawberries if you like.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star’s longtime food columnist, appearing every Wednesday and one Sunday per month.