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Are you ready for some rhubarb?


The puckery pie plant is ready to pick

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Rhubarb is ready to harvest in home gardens and farms in our area. This plant can be used in a variety of ways including as food, medicine and to clean pots and pans.Rhubarb is ready in my garden. That bit of good news prompted me to search the Internet for new recipes using rhubarb, which led me to The Rhubarb Compendium, a website packed with folklore about “pie plant.”

Rhubarb has been used medicinally for centuries. It originated in China, and Marco Polo wrote about it extensively in his reports of his travels there. It was introduced to European countries via Russia and Italy, made its way to America in the late 1790s, and by 1822 it was a commonly sold in produce markets.

All parts — the leaves, petioles or celery-like stalks and roots — have been used in herbal medicine. When ingested in small doses, rhubarb acts as an astringent tonic to the digestive system. When taken in larger doses, it can act as a very mild laxative. The root can be used externally as a treatment for burns.

The site had recipes for making a laxative tea, a neutralizing cordial and other tonics and folk-healing remedies.

And the site shared information about rhubarb’s lesser-known uses, like as a cleaner for burned pots and pans. Rubbing rhubarb over the afflicted area will bring back the shine in next to no time, according to the site. The Rhubarb Compendium also said rhubarb can be used to make a fairly strong dye to add golden tones to blond and light-brown hair. To make the dye you’re supposed to simmer three tablespoons of rhubarb root in two cups of water for 15 minutes, set it aside overnight and then strain. Test the dye on a few strands of hair to determine the effect, then pour through the hair for a rinse. Good luck with that one, especially if you already color your hair.

This use I would be willing to try: Evidently rhubarb leaves can be used to make an effective organic insecticide for leaf-eating insects like aphids, caterpillars and slugs.

The recipe calls for boiling a few pounds of rhubarb leaves in a few pints of water for 15 to 20 minutes; then, allow that to cool. Strain the liquid into a container, dissolve some soap flakes in this liquid and use it as a spray on plant leaves.

Rhubarb inspires art as well as industry and creative cookery. There were limericks, a “Rhubarb Tart Song” and paintings featured on the website, as well as a link to a papermaking site that uses rhubarb.

Back to how we best know rhubarb — as filling for pies, tarts and desserts. Many bakers mix rhubarb with strawberries to get a combination that is both delicious and pretty pink colored.

The recipes I chose today are for entrees — perhaps a stretch for some. The 17th Sunday Dinner is a beautifully colored entrée — picture orange salmon, red cabbage and pink rhubarb on a bed of arugula. Beautiful!

The rosy color of the rhubarb-cucumber salsa will be a cooling flavor for the spicy chicken thighs.

To learn how to plant rhubarb in your garden and other fun facts about rhubarb, visit The Rhubarb Compedium at rhubarbinfo.com.

Bon appetit! Eat something wonderful!

Spicy Chicken Thighs with Rhubarb-Cucumber Salsa

Servings: 4

1 habanero, Scotch bonnet or Thai chile, with seeds, stemmed

2 garlic cloves

2 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts divided

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/4 cup olive oil

6 large chicken thighs, bone in and skin on

1 1/2 cups 1/4-inch-cubed rhubarb

1 cup 1/4-inch-cubed unpeeled, seeded English hothouse cucumber

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 500 F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Pulse chile, garlic and white parts of scallions in a food processor until finely chopped.

With machine running, drizzle in soy sauce, then olive oil; process until emulsion forms. Transfer sauce to bowl.

Place chicken thighs skin side up on a work surface and slash each crosswise at 3/4 inch intervals down to the bone.

Season lightly with salt. Place on prepared baking sheet and brush with sauce. Bake until skin is crisp and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 165 F, about 20 to 25 minutes. Broil on high for an additional 2 to 3 minutes for crisper skin, if desired. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss rhubarb, cucumber, cilantro, honey, vegetable oil and lime juice and green parts of scallion in a medium bowl to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper and let stand for at least 10 minutes to allow flavors to meld.

Serve chicken with rhubarb salsa alongside.

(Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2012)

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-636-1281, ext. 101, or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..