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Produce Corner: Rhubarb

The Produce Corner is a column by farmer and Dill Pickle owner Rob Montalbano. Here Rob shares info on some of his favorite in-season veggies including history, cooking ideas and storage tips. Rob lives and works with his wife Christina on their farm in Sandwich, IL.

Over the years, many plants have come and gone for me. But I will never forget my very first love. She was a rhubarb. Tall and slender with thick, red stalks. Leaves as dark green as can be with pink streaks. Snippy but sweet and both at the same time. She was strong and tough and came back to me, loyally, year after year after year. I miss that rhubarb.

It is definitely one of the favorites on the farm too. Rhubarb is a perennial, bringing forth its bounty for many seasons. It’s beautiful. Red and green stalks support a canopy of leaves that can stretch almost 2 feet long. On top of that, it’s one of our earliest crops. Harvesting fresh rhubarb in mid April reminds us all of nature’s delicacy and generosity.

Rhubarb brings conflict, however. While the stalks are the focus of many delicious desserts, the leaves are, in fact, quite poisonous. Owing to its tart flavor and fibrous nature, rhubarb most often appears in dessert recipes. Rhubarb pies, crumb bars, tarts, muffins and jams fill the early gardeners pantry. It combines well with the first fruits of the season and often is paired with strawberries and raspberries.

Store rhubarb unwashed and wrapped in a damp towel or plastic bag in the crisper section of the refrigerator. Look for firm, crisp stalks. If you buy too much, you can freeze rhubarb and enjoy it during those hot summer months.

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