Rhubarb, The barbaric fruit (or is it a vegetable)

Barbarian root.  Grrr.  That sounds so evil, mean, unhealthy. Yet it is the English translation of the Latin name for rhubarb, reuburbarum, most likely derived from its extreme acidity and the vivid color of its stems.  It is a huge misnomer because, truly, for a barbarian the rhubarb is very easy to tame.

Medicine Not Food

Asia is the home turf of rhubarb, and there it was used purely as a medicinal.  When it first came to Europe in the 18th century, its role there too was as a cure for, apparently, every illness known to mankind. 

Merci, English Gardeners

English gardeners grabbed onto rhubarb cultivation, developing different varieties which soon became fashionable for their gustatory qualities, though just the very emerging stalks.  It was years later that the entire stalks were eaten. 

Unlovable Leaves

The lush, umbrella-sized leaves are considered toxic because they are so full of oxalic acid even the compost heap doesn’t love them.  At least that is accepted wisdom. My experience tell me differently, as my compost eats up the leaves from my single plant and not only am I here to tell the tale, but so is my lush garden.

Regarding  the toxicity of the leaves, there are voices – or should I say, palates – of dissent.  A  report on rhubarb from 1942 claims that the leaves are just like sorrel (rhubarb’s cousin) when well cooked, and that not all eaters felt “indisposed” after eating them.  Note the year.  It was in the middle of a World Qar when people throughout Europe were starving. Lush green leaves of any plant might have been reported to be quite delicious, no matter the after effects.

Let us Count the Ways

Today we don’t eat rhubarb leaves, at least I don’t.  But those stalks, oh those stalks.  From dipping them raw into sugar to cooking them fast in a sugar syrup to letting them melt into a compote, the rhubarb is a garden treasure.  It’s wonderful in tarts and cakes, compote can be served at any time of day with a crème anglaise, a scoop of ice cream, sweetened yogurt.  Rhubarb is a vegetable that is considered by most to be a fruit.   As you inhabit the world of Dancing Tomatoes, you’ll find rhubarb turning up in many different roles

So, rush to get some rhubarb, make yourself a tart like the one in the video, and enjoy the barbarity of it all!  Bon Appétit!

RHUBARB TART - TARTE A LA RHUBARB

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Keyword: creme fraiche, eggs, pastry, rhubarb

Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup;100 g vanilla sugar
  • 3 tablespoons crème fraîche or heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound;500 g rhubarb, trimmed, peeled, and cut into ¼ inch (.75 cm) dice
  • One 10 ½ inch;26 cm pre-baked Tender Tart Pastry

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 425ºF (210ºC).
  • In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the eggs and the vanilla sugar until the mixture is pale yellow. Whisk in the crème fraîche. Sift in the flour and whisk it to blend.
  • Arrange the rhubarb in an even layer in the pre-baked pastry shell. Pour the egg mixture over the rhubarb, shaking the tart pan so the cream is evenly distributed over the fruit. Place it on a baking sheet, and bake in the center of the oven until it is golden and puffed, about 30 minutes.
  • Remove the tart from the oven and remove the sides of the pan. Place the tart on a wire rack and let it cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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