June means asparagus, early radishes and lots and lots of rhubarb, an easy-to-grow and prolific perennial plant that provides a super-versatile ingredient for sweet and savory dishes.
When I was a kid, I’d pick a stalk and eat it raw, dipping it in a bowl of sugar. Peeling it seemed to somewhat reduce the bitterness.
Rhubarb can be baked into muffins, cakes, squares, even used as a pizza topping. Stewed up with a little sugar (to taste) and water, it can be a topper for ice cream or biscuits, or eaten on its own.
CBC News asked viewers on Facebook for their favorite ways to cook with rhubarb.
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Glenda Landry’s rhubarb strawberry custard pie
Passionate home cook and foodie Glenda Landry of Stratford shared her recipe for rhubarb strawberry pie, given to her by her neighbor of 43 years, Phyllis Crockett, who says it was her great-aunt Anna Tait’s recipe. Crockett “is firm to say her recipe didn’t have any strawberries, I added those!” Landry said.
Use your favorite pastry recipe for a double-crust pie.
4 cups of cut rhubarb
2 cups cut strawberries
Custard: 1 ½ cups white sugar, 3 Tablespoons flour, 1 Tablespoon cornstarch, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, 2 Tablespoons soft butter, 2 slightly beaten eggs.
Gently stir the custard into the prepared fruit. Spoon into prepared pie pastry. Bake at 400 F for 20 minutes, then 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
Beth Johnston’s rhubarb punch
Beth Johnston of Charlottetown loves cooking and baking with seasonal ingredients like rhubarb. The recipe for a punch using rhubarb simple syrup came from her aunt Paula Willis, who has made it for crowds at weddings, funerals and other community gatherings.
Johnston also uses the syrup in cocktails.
First, boil equal amounts of rhubarb and water: one liter of rhubarb and one liter of water. Cook to clear then strain.
For each “original” quart of rhubarb, add ¾ to 1 cup of sugar to warm, strained juices, plus 1/3 cup of orange juice and ¼ cup fresh-squeezed strained lemon juice.
When it’s time to make the punch, simply add 2 cups of ginger ale which the recipe says, “must be Canada Dry ginger ale,” and no ice because it will dilute it.
Johnston also makes a killer rhubarb upside-down cake, with a recipe from the New York Times.
“I am in the midst of dehydrating 33 pounds of it,” commented Karen Mellish-May of Summerside.
“[It stays] shelf stable at room temperature for years, rehydrates very nicely for pies, crisps, or sauce, can replace raisins in loaves or muffins, nice to eat out of hand. And takes up only about 1/10 the kitchen real estate that frozen or canned would. ”
She blanches the rhubarb in a large pot of water with a cup of sugar.
“Wash rhubarb, cut in 1/3 inch slices. When water is boiling simmer the rhubarb for two minutes. No measurements or timings have to be exact,” she said.
“Ladle fruit onto trays and drain for a minute so your dehydrator won’t be a mess.”
Paulette Melvin Arsenault’s rhubarb sauce
Paulette Melvin Arsenault preserves rhubarb in jars as a multi-purpose sauce.
“My recipe is really simple: 8 cups of rhubarb, ¼ cup water, 1 cup sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes,” she directs.
“My favorite way to use it is with my oats in the morning, but I also like it for a topping on ice cream or on a piece of toast with peanut butter.”
Joy Shinn may have the simplest recipe of all: caramelized rhubarb.
“Basically cooking with some sugar on stove until brown but not burnt. Great on sandwiches!” she said.