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Spring is late but rhubarb is plentiful
By Iris Clark Neumann
Monday, June 03, 2013 3:39 AM
Family visitors at the lake on Memorial Day weekend were, from left, my son, Doron, with daughters, Sylvie and holding Cora, Jenna and Tyrel with Noah, Kylie and Ian.
We were gone up north over Memorial Day weekend and had a rain free weekend. Not so, back at home. It rained and rained, and tonight it is still raining.
I was not sure if I would be able to write tonight because I planned to visit my daughter, Amanda, in the hospital. The good news was that after a scary spike in her blood sugar level, she was back at home this afternoon after two days in the ICU.
At first, after realizing I'd be staying home, thoughts of going out and planting some of the many plants purchased recently filled my mind. Nine large pots and five hanging planters are waiting to be filled with blooming plants. Then there are the new perennials that have grown from wee plants into attractive specimens in the two weeks since I purchased them from the garden center where my daughter works.
Not so, it started raining again and altered my plans...
Our farmers market was held on Tuesday, in conditions that were misty with soggy ground underfoot. But comparing that weather to Wednesday's downpours, the mist was preferable.
With all the rain, it has been difficult getting peppers or tomatoes into the ground. Lettuce is growing (slowly), but all the rain splashing up dirt makes washing it a more laborious task. At our farmers market, the late spring means a delay in the crop of strawberries, at least a month beyond when they were ready a year ago.
Up north, my peas are up and the lettuce, radish, spinach and chard seeds have finally germinated. But oddly, they could use a more frequent watering.
Locally grown asparagus is ready and so is the rhubarb - to make the best of a bad situation, let's enjoy our locally available asparagus and rhubarb with relish! For the rest of the crops, please be patient.
My chives have been plentiful and lush this year and so I have been thinking of all the ways to use chives or the juicy stems of perennial onion.
Perk up a baked potato, top-dress a pizza, give an omelet an oniony flavor, throw a handful into soup, flavor a dip for fresh veggies or top a lettuce salad. There are endless possibilities - they are easy to snip into lengths with a scissor.
I have nearly completed the transformation of my perennial raised bed into an herb bed. My sons long ago dubbed this garden space as "the moat." I've purchased new thyme plants, planted a portion into parsley, sowed seeds of summer savory and curled chervil (the rain encouraged germination), and added a row of basil. I have dug in new mint, lemon balm and oregano plants. The existing two French tarragon plants were divided into four and moved to become the tall center plants in a circular area.
My hearty chive plants were divided and became a chive edging in one area, that includes a few flat-leaved garlic chives. The onion chive's lavender flowers will add interest to this mainly green space. Hanging planters on stakes stuck in the bed will add color, eventually.
Most of the old perennial flower plants have been removed, but I have kept a few iris, clumps of bee balm, and a few specimen perennials. It will take some doing to eradicate a couple of perennials that had invaded some areas. A weed is a plant out of place, and now I consider them to be "weeds."
While we were up north, I found roasting vegetables was a great way to present veggies to our guests. I made sweet potato fries, but remembered when they ended up sort of mushy just like my original recipe had cautioned, that it said to not roast other vegetables in the oven at the same time.
Not to be outdone, I roasted wedges of skins-on potatoes and Brussels sprouts along with the sweet potatoes. For another meal, I roasted asparagus, baby carrots and zucchini. Only the asparagus was "in season."
Recently, I had ordered roasted Brussels sprouts as an appetizer at an eating place up north. They were so tasty, that I found a similar recipe online and have since created the experience in my own kitchen twice. Roasting is a magical process that brings out the natural sugars in the vegetables.
To roast other vegetables, the process is very similar to creating the sweet potato fries I had shared in an earlier column.
Cut Brussels sprouts in half lengthwise, potatoes in wedges with skin on, asparagus in lengths or zucchini in thick slices. Lay out on a cooking sheet. Brush with olive oil or grapeseed oil. Season with salt and pepper, perhaps using garlic or rosemary salt. Then roast in an oven heated to 400 to 425 degrees. During the cooking time, remove pan and turn over the veggies, brushing with more oil as needed. Roasting takes about a half hour for these vegetables.
But tonight I am cooking a rhubarb dessert in the oven. I may have shared this recipe before and apologize if I have. I have also given out this recipe at the farmers market and one customer told me how much their family enjoyed this dessert (except their 5-year-old, who wasn't too keen on the tart rhubarb taste).
I'll admit that as a child, I thought the taste was really yucky. However, chewing on a stalk of fresh rhubarb was acceptable, but baked into something like a pie, no thanks.
A friend once made rhubarb punch for her daughter's wedding guests. I loved it, and was disappointed when seconds were not an option, as it was a popular choice.
With all the wet weather, it's easy to feel depressed - all the more reason to roast up some asparagus or chop up a handful of rhubarb stalks into a sweet dessert. Asparagus can also be grilled in lengths, similarly prepared (as for roasting) by brushing with olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper.
1 cup sifted flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup oatmeal
1 teaspoon cinnamon
5 cups chopped rhubarb: red, green or a combination of both
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons wheat germ
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Combine flour, brown sugar, butter, oatmeal and cinnamon. Press half the crumbs into a greased 9 X 13 inch pan. While chopping the rhubarb, start cooking in a saucepan: white sugar first mixed with the cornstarch, then stir in cold water. Cook until it is clear and thickened; stir in the vanilla after removing the pan from the heat.
Spread the chopped rhubarb (cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch lengths) over the crumb mixture in the pan. Pour the thickened sauce over the rhubarb. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the top. If desired, sprinkle with wheat germ and chopped nuts.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for an hour.
Serve plain or with a topping of yogurt, ice cream or whipped cream.
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