Scary stories from a lovely place

Fee, fi, fo fum! I smell…..giant rhubarb!

Rhubarb is weird. The stalks are where the goodness is, but apparently the leaves will kill you. It grows like mad in the cold of the northern hemisphere. It’s kind of red, but mostly green. It tastes amazing and it’s hard not to cook it right. It feels dignified, regal even to eat it regularly. It’s tart and acidic, but delicious.

I had never eaten this gloriously strange stuff until I lived in South Africa. There I found it for sale in an overpriced greengrocer’s and decided to give it a go. I was enchanted by the inherent paradoxes of rhubarb. It tasted incredible – that much I was sure of. But I couldn’t really explain why.

Then I fell in love with Stephen, who was veritably raised on the stuff. He spoke of rhubarb crumble and rhubarb pie and rhubarb sauce and rhubarb compote like they were staples. I was mystified. I kept cooking it and consuming it and trying it out in different forms. Crumble. Muffins (mmm with orange peel). Stewed and served with ice cream. Or custard. Or on top of pancakes. The possibilities seemed endless.

Then we got married and I tried my hand at growing food in the garden for us to eat. Rhubarb was on the top of the list. It tried to grow. But as soon as a stalk appeared I would cut that sucker off and chuck it in a saucepan with a bunch of the store bought stuff. I tried to be patient. The stalks got bigger. But there was never more than one or two. I was disappointed and started to doubt the quality of rhubarb.

We visited Stephen’s parents in another part of the country and I was amazed by their rhubarb plantation. It was growing under the washing line, uncut, unmolested, uninterrupted. There were stalks and leaves galore. Stephen’s mum gave me a bag full to take home. But the stalks were never wider than my middle finger, which is the same as the ones I could buy at the greengrocer. Stephen spoke wistfully of rhubarb the size of my wrist growing in his childhood garden. In Ireland. I had to see it.

So I came to Ireland a few weeks ago, doubting the presence of this gigantic, arm sized rhubarb. I had labelled my husband a liar, or at least prone to hyperbole. I should not have doubted him. In an unassuming patch of earth in my in-law’s backyard there is rhubarb growing that looks like it would feed a giant. The leaves are as big as my armspan. Some of the stalks are as thick as my children’s arms. It’s bewildering.

But do you know what’s even crazier? My parents in law are just letting this rhubarb languish in its enormity. It’s sitting there uncut, unmolested, uninterrupted. They’re not cooking it everyday and consuming it in a variety of forms. It’s wrong, criminal, sinful even! So I had to rectify the situation. I took a butter knife to the plant and cut off the glorious stalks.

I stewed (and forgot about the saucepan bubbling away, but it still turned out okay). I added sugar and lemon rind. I baked muffins (they failed – dodgy British flour). I baked crumble.

It was glorious. But the rhubarb plant looks barely touched by my cooking hands. There will be more rhubarb snapped off, cut up and cooked in the coming weeks – that you can count on.

See also:

Stephen’s meringue log


Peppercorn biscotti (so good!)


11 comments on “Fee, fi, fo fum! I smell…..giant rhubarb!

  1. charltonestatetrust
    September 14, 2012

    Your bag of flour has revealed what country this blog is from 🙂
    I like rhubarb crumble but it is really great with ice cream, yum, yum.
    I enjoyed your blog – thank-you!

    • kimlovesjozi
      September 14, 2012

      Hmmmm….I think you could be wrong. The bag of flour was used in a different country and I am from a different country again! Globalisation….

      • charltonestatetrust
        September 14, 2012

        Can I play guess the country with you?
        Are you Irish then – from the Republic?

  2. kimlovesjozi
    September 14, 2012

    All the answers are buried in the blog! But I will speed up the process for you. I am Australian, married to an Irishman, but we met and lived in South Africa. I’m not sure why my in-laws have british flour in the cupboard (they aren’t too keen on Britain). I imagine it was on a trip to Northern Ireland to visit relatives that they purchased it. But who knows? As I said…globalisation.

  3. Fluffy Tufts
    September 15, 2012

    You have given me major rhubarb cravings! 🙂

  4. Kim
    September 17, 2012

    Hey Kim – I just discovered this stuff this year, too! Mum & Dad had these ridiculously healthy rhubarb plants practically taking over their garden down at the farm. Not quite a big as what you’re describing, but I chopped off a bagful of stalks and brought it back to Sydney with me (along with bags of lemons, oranges, and 4 quinces that my Dad have scavenged for me) and had the most glorious couple of weeks baking away (and giving away!). I made this delicious Rhubarb and Coconut Cake – I’ll send you the recipe (and hopefully the British flour doesn’t cause failure again!)

  5. craftythrifterinnz
    September 17, 2012

    Rhubarb is great with muesli, DH eats it every morning. The trick to growing nice large plants is to feed it well. He digs his fish heads and scraps in after filliting his catch. We have lots of it in the freezer and are constantly converting others into trying it as well. It’s very versatile as you say. Have you tried making rhubarb champagne?

  6. Pingback: Irish confusion about the weather « Kimlovesjozi

  7. Pingback: Rhubarb wrap up + recipe sharing « Kimlovesjozi

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This entry was posted on September 14, 2012 by in Cooking, Travel and tagged , , , , , .
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