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Posts Tagged ‘rhubarb’

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie from a Small Kitchen Garden

Strawberry-Rhubarb from a Small Kitchen Garden

Two distinct flavors cook together into a sweet, tart, sticky filling for a classic, uniquely American dessert: strawberry-rhubarb pie. The three vidoes in this post explain how you can make your own.

In hardiness zone 5, rhubarb is among the first spring crops a small kitchen garden might produce. With that crop alone, you can make curiously sweet and tart pies that would please most diners. However, around mid June, the first real fruit crop of a kitchen garden ripens: strawberries. It’s then that you can create the uniquely American strawberry-rhubarb pie.

The idea of mixing strawberries with rhubarb is that the sweetness of the strawberries balances with the tartness of the rhubarb. Generally you add a lot of sugar to the fruit of a fruit pie, so it’s hard to distinguish the sweet components from the tart ones. What’s more, the flavors of the strawberries and rhubarb intermingle as the pie bakes, resulting in a new flavor that doesn’t naturally occur; a terrific flavor that should appeal to any fruit-lover’s sweet tooth.

Make your own Pie

I made strawberry-rhubarb pies the other day. Usually, I make two pies at once because it makes just as much mess as making one pie. I bake one, and put the second in the freezer to bake during the off season; you can put a frozen pie in a 300F degree oven for about 20 minutes, then kick the temperature up to 375 or 400 degrees and cook it for another 40 minutes to an hour… it comes out of the oven as though you made it fresh that day.

When I’m going to freeze a pie, I make it in a “disposable” aluminum pie pan; if I’m going to bake it and eat it right away, I prefer a glass pie plate. In any case, when I made my strawberry rhubarb pies, I took a lot of photos and videos. I’ve embedded the videos in this blog post.

The first (6 minutes 20 seconds) demonstrates how to make a bottom crust for a fruit pie: the ingredients, mixing, rolling out dough, and lining the pie plate. The second video (4 minutes 20 seconds) explains how I made the strawberry-rhubarb filling for two pies… and provides insight into how to make pie filling using nearly any fruit. The third video (5 minutes) demonstrates how to make a lattice crust for a pie: mixing dough, rolling it out, and forming the lattice crust.

If you’ve never made pie, watching all three videos in order will get you through. If you know how to make pie crusts but have never made strawberry-rhubarb pie, the second video provides enough information for you to make your first.

When you’re ready to bake your pie, put it in a 400F degree oven on a jelly roll pan or a round pizza pan for 45- to 60-minutes. Check on it after 30 minutes, and if the crust is getting dark, decrease the oven’s temperature to 350F degrees. The pie is ready when the crust is gold brown and the filling is bubly and thick.

When you’ve made your first strawberry-rhubarb pie, please visit Your Small Kitchen Garden blog and leave a comment about your experience. Finally, if you prefer written instructions rather than video, visit my sister blog, Your Home Kitchen Garden. There I’ve presented step-by-step instructions along with plenty of photos.

 

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Small Kitchen Garden Rhubarb

Rhubarb in my Small Kitchen GardenWhen you buy a house from a kitchen gardener, you may find a rhubarb patch in the yard. Rhubarb requires relatively little maintenance, and it rewards you with a delicious, fruity crop when most other food crops are just sprouting.

Do you have rhubarb in your small kitchen garden? I can’t imagine my garden without it. I’m certain that Rhubarb is almost strictly a food of gardeners; I don’t remember seeing it in the produce section in Boston’s grocery stores when I lived in Boston—or at the farmers’ market near Faneuil Hall.

In rural Pennsylvania, you can buy rhubarb in a grocery store and at the farmers’ market during the month or two it’s in season. I’m always overwhelmed by the price of rhubarb, and I note that it rarely has a prominent position in the produce section or on a farmer’s table at the market.

It seems unlikely you’ll experience rhubarb by chance. In my experience, people who know rhubarb grew up eating it at home. I imagine, however, that a lot of people have acquired rhubarb plants along with houses they’ve bought; if a former owner planted rhubarb, it’s quite likely still growing there. That gives the uninitiated a commitment-free excuse to try rhubarb.

If you’ve never tasted the stuff, don’t invest in plants. Rather, find a neighbor who’s willing to share—or buy some rhubarb stalks somewhere—and make some rhubarb sauce. The flavor might surprise you… but if you don’t care for rhubarb sauce, don’t give up on rhubarb. I’ve seen people who won’t touch rhubarb sauce devour rhubarb pie… and strawberry rhubarb pie, jams containing rhubarb, and rhubarb breads. I suspect they’d also go for a good rhubarb cake, but I’ve never seen a rhubarb cake, so I can’t be sure.

About Rhubarb

Once you’ve decided you like rhubarb, you’re ready to commit to one of the most rewarding home kitchen garden plants. Around here, you can buy rhubarb plants in nursery pots at garden stores and nurseries. A single plant runs about six to nine dollars, depending on where you buy it.

Small Kitchen Garden fertilizerIf you cut sod when you dig a hole to plant rhubarb, place the sod, grass-side-down, in the bottom of the hole before adding soil and compost. The sod will provide excellent nutrition for the young plant as it gets established in its new home.

Rhubarb grows thick, tuberous roots that don’t like to be wet for extended periods. It also likes lots of sunlight and very rich soil. My dad used to dump raw horse manure around his plants to make them happy in the spring, and they never complained.

When you plant, select a place where the soil drains quickly. This is important: All my plants died one very rainy season when standing water collected for days on end. The next season, I planted in a slightly raised bed, but still lost two out of four plants when another rainy stretch saturated the soil.

Dig a hole at least six inches deeper than the nursery pot and about twice its diameter. If you cut sod to start the hole, put the sod grass-side-down in the bottom of the hole and cover it with soil and compost. If you didn’t cut sod for the hole, fill with compost and soil until the hole is as deep as the nursery pot. You should set the rhubarb roots two-to-three inches below the soil line, so if the nursery pot is full to the brim, make the hole you plant in a bit deeper.

Remove your new plant from the pot, set it in the middle of the hole, and fill around it with compost and soil until the hole is full. If there are young rhubarb stalks already growing from the roots, it’s OK for the soil to cover the bottoms of the stems. The stems themselves may not like it, but in the long-run, the plant will adjust to this planting depth; ideally, the top of the root should be three inches under ground.

Water rhubarb plants heavily for a few weeks after planting until you see new, vigorous growth.

Low-Maintenance Bounty

It’s hard to kill a rhubarb plant by accident. I’ve never seen one burn from getting too much fertilizer so fertilize heavily in the spring, two or three times through the growing season, and again when you put your garden to bed in the fall. If you eschew chemical fertilizers add compost or manure often. Rhubarb grows most aggressively in mid-to-late spring, and may look pretty beat in the heat of summer. By fall, a rhubarb patch can look shot as the leaves wilt and stalks shrivel. I usually have some rhubarb-looking growth until fall, but everything above soil wastes away well before snow falls.

Don’t let the plant’s summer droopiness cause you to overlook it when watering. If the rest of your small kitchen garden needs water, so does the rhubarb. Give your plants occasional deep watering especially during dry spells.

Home Kitchen Garden Rhubarb In LeavesRhubarb emerges within a few weeks of the ground thawing – even from under a thick mulch. I was just starting vegetable seeds indoors under lights when I snapped this photo in early April.

Once stalks and leaves die back at the end of the season, mulch over the area with compost, manure, leaves, or grass clippings. Mulch will protect roots from early deep frosts, and provide some nutrition as young stalks push through in the spring. Rhubarb wakes up very early, and may be the first food you harvest in a season.

And that’s one of the most compelling reasons to plant rhubarb in your small kitchen garden: you do nothing to it from fall until spring, but it wakes up and quickly gives you a delicious fruit-like crop. This year, I harvested my first rhubarb stalks in early May while just a few of my herbs and vegetables were starting to grow. Only hardy herbs are ready in my garden as early as the rhubarb is.

In case you’ve never harvested rhubarb and made sauce, I wrote a blog entry detailing how. You can find it under the title Eat Rhubarb from Your Home Kitchen Garden. If you prefer watching over reading, here’s a video I created that explains how to make rhubarb sauce. It’s about seven minutes long. I hope you find it useful:

Here are links to articles that describe other uses for rhubarb:

  • Rhubarb Juice: A Many Spendored Thing – by David Perry. Many of you have heard or read me raving about rhubarb juice, a simple, healthy nectar that Dave Brown, wooden bowl maker, bread baker, birder, master canoeist, photographer, storyteller, life magician and director of the Wildbranch Writer’s Workshop first introduced me to…

  • Back to the Locabar: Rhubarb Margarita I’ve been hinting for weeks that I wanted a special cocktail for my birthday. Last summer we got so used to fresh, seasonal ingredients that our long winter presented a special challenge for the Cocktail Study Club. More often than not, Friday night rolled around and Charlie would say, “How about a martini?” I love his martinis but enough is enough….

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