Dancing Tomatoes

As long as it is rhubarb season, we’ll be presenting rhubarb dishes here at Dancing Tomatoes because we love everything about it. 

Heterogeneity – Fruit or Veg?

We’ve established its origins (Asia); we know it inspired the Romans to name it after people with no manners (Barbarians), we’ve included it rightfully in the same family as sorrel.  And now we must consider its heterogeneity.  It is classified as a vegetable yet, most of the time, it is treated as a fruit. 

Lots of Company

Of course, it’s not alone in this ambiguity – think the tomato, or avocado or, yes, even corn.  Is identifying rhubarb as one or the other important to its overall gastronomic value?  I would argue that no, it isn’t.

Caramelizes to Perfection

So moving along, rhubarb reverts to the fruit side of its nature, featured here in a dessert, that caramelizes to a richly crunchy, sticky, tart and sweet delectability that will win you over.  It’s a dessert I grew up eating, admittedly in a brown-sugar/molasses loving family where oats were strewn liberally into our foods and rhubarb had a near mythic position as the fruit of our desires.  We all, and we were a bunch, loved it.

Diplomatic Tool

This dessert is very clearly un-French, yet when I serve it to French friends around my table, they love it. It has always been part of my diplomatic campaign: show that Americans actually know how to cook, and produce delicious dishes on a regular basis!


Of course it is appreciated in part for its novelty value (like me and all ex-pats), for the French routinely fold rhubarb into custard that they then bake in pastry, but mostly for its flavor, which is rich and delicious, yet appealingly refreshing.  It is so easy to make and once you’ve wrapped it into your repertoire, you’ll find lots of ways to vary it.  I sometimes double the amount of rhubarb, cut it with some fresh raspberries, fold in sliced apricots or peaches.    To my way of thinking and tasting, rhubarb MUST be present but it’s up to you how much. 

A Dollop of This or That

So make and taste this, and remember that if you’ve got some crème fraîche, whipped cream, or even crème anglaise on hand, it will make this crunch even better!


Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: butter, flour, muscovado sugar, rhubarb, rolled oats, vanilla sugar
Servings: 8 servings


  • For the topping:
  • 1-1/2 cups; rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup;110g all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup;220g brown or muscovado sugar, lightly packed
  • 12 tablespoons;185g unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 12 pieces
  • For the rhubarb:
  • 1 good-sized bunch fresh rhubarb cut into ½-inch pieces (to give 6 to 8 cups rhubarb)
  • 1/2 cup;100g vanilla sugar


  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200C).
  • Place oats, the flour, and the brown sugar in the work bowl of a food processor and pulse until all the ingredients are combined. Add the butter and process until the mixture is crumbly and the pieces of butter are about the original size of the oats. Be careful not to over mix; the texture of the oats is important.
  • Place the rhubarb in a 10 x 13-1/2 inch (25 x 34.5cm) non-reactive baking pan. Pour over the sugar, then crumble the oat mixture evenly overall. Bake until the fruit is bubbling up around the edges, and the topping is golden and crisp, 45 to 50 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 20 minutes before eating. Don’t try eating it directly from the oven – it will be blistering hot and dangerous! Serve with crème fraîche, heavy cream, or crème anglaise, if desired!

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