Nothing says spring quite like the sweet-tart taste of the year's first rhubarb, baked into pies, loaves or cakes or stewed and eaten with yogurt or ice cream. Native to Asia, rhubarb has grown wild along the banks of the Volga river for centuries; nowadays, it's a common sight in Canadians' backyards -- it's so easy to grow that once you add it to your garden, you'll be inundated with rhubarb annually in return for little effort.
Selection and storage
The best rhubarb (like all things) comes straight from your garden, but if you're not lucky enough to have a rhubarb patch, you can find it in grocery stores and farmer's markets as well. Look for fresh, crisp stalks, and stand them in cold water for about an hour if you think they need refreshing. Rhubarb can be stored for a few weeks in the refrigerator, but it's best eaten when fresh.
Rhubarb is rich in vitamin C and fibre and also contains significant amounts of calcium, vitamin K and potassium.
Rhubarb can be eaten raw -- the stalks make a tasty snack with each bite dipped in sugar -- but it's typically cooked and eaten in a variety of desserts, such as pies, tarts, cakes and loaves (see recipes below). Stewed rhubarb is also delicious with whipped cream, ice cream or yogurt.
Only prepare and eat the stalks; make sure to trim the poisonous leaves off before cooking. Wash thoroughly and chop into pieces an inch or so long, depending on your recipe. To stew rhubarb, put 6 cups chopped rhubarb, 1 cup sugar and 2 tbsp water in a pot over medium heat; stir until sugar is dissolved, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.