Rhubarb ramblings…and elderflower

Earlier this year I had a thing for tarragon and now it’s rhubarb.

Can’t quite explain how these things float up to my conscious mind until they become a minor obsession – almost.

Possible reasons:

1. My mother, who loves rhubarb, is coming to stay in a couple of weeks.

2. It is the season for rhubarb, not the forced variety which is available from Jan – April, but the rhubarb which is grown outdoors from May – Sep.

3. My first (Dutch) friend, aged 3, was called Barbara but I called her rhubarb – which (before you start to think how sad that I lost the plot at such a young age) is quite close to the Dutch word for rhubarb: rabarber. This also reminds me of an interesting chat I had this week about language – but that is a story for another time.

3. Savvy Cook was baking delicious rhubarb polenta cakes this week.

4. to stay in my other half’s good books I made a rhubarb and almond sponge pudding the other day ….it was a bit of an experiment, but a successful one and for those if you who want it I am happy to let you have the recipe (really more a case of assembling a few ingredients if truth be known).

Here are couple of things I have gleaned about rhubarb which I want to share with you.

Rhubarb facts

Nutrition: rhubarb is very low in calories, about 21 per 100g and it contains lots of vitamin C and fibre.

History: rhubarb was first grown on the banks of the Volga in Siberia and used as a medicinal plant as early as 2,700BC. Marco Polo brought the plant to Europe where it arrived in Britain in the 16th century and it was then used to treat stomach and liver complaints.

Varieties: there are about 50 (!) species of rhubarb.

Harvesting: strikingly pink, forced rhubarb is picked by candlelight in heated forcing sheds – somehow, this seems entirely appropriate for such a pretty, delicate vegetable.

Earlier today I was given a bottle of home-made elderflower cordial by one of our neighbours. I thought it was a little bit early to go picking elderflower heads, but apparently not.

Need to make a mental note to get down to the woods soon before all the elderflower bushes are bare….which will be very quickly once the retired brigage get on to it. It is the same with blackberries every one. One morning you are out with the dogs and spot loads of bushes heavy with fruit, the next day: all gone! 

It is also a really nice thing to do with children, who can make the cordial themselves with a little bit of help from a grown-up. See if they can taste the difference between the (often) chemical laden shop-bought variety and the real thing!

It is made me think about doing something this weekend with elderflowers ….. and rhubarb.

Talking about elder flowers: I attended a roundtable meeting earlier this week to discuss the theme: “can you design your way out of a recession”. To keep us all fortified, and the conversation flowing I guess, delicious Courvoisier cognac cocktails were served. I tried one made with elderflower which was delightful (and this is real praise from someone who usually doesn’t like cocktails). Now that I have got cordial on tap, I am going to try and replicate the delicious drink.

It may take my mind of the rhubarb.

Proost!

Enjoy the sunshine,

Monique

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