If you’ve been reading iList for a while you might know that, as a kid, I worked on a farm to earn a bit of extra money. Some of my father’s oldest friends owned the farm that was only 150 feet away from my backyard. When I was strong enough, it was time for me to go to work for the Doris family. I think I was 10 or 11.
You may think that is a little young to start working but I saw it as a way to earn some money and get the things I wanted - generally, a toy or some fireworks for the Fourth of July. The Doris’ farm had dairy cows, chickens and a few pigs as I recall. They also grew corn, soybean, wheat and tobacco. There were plenty of jobs I could do including feeding the baby animals.
Because our families were old friends, I would occasionally be invited to lunch if I was putting in a full day working. Mrs. Doris generally laid out a big meal at lunch, including dessert. Farming will make a man or boy hungry!
I don’t recall many of the dishes, but one that sticks out in my mind is rhubarb cobbler and vanilla ice cream. I think it was because it was the first time I had ever eaten rhubarb and I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor.
Pick early & often, but don’t eat the leaves
Rhubarb is a vegetable but most people use it like a fruit and prepare it in pies, crumbles and cobblers. It looks like celery except with a red color and can be cultivated year-round in either hot houses or outdoors. The hot house variety tends to be a bit sweeter and more tender than the plants grown outdoors.
In temperate climates, rhubarb is often one of the first plants harvested. In North America, rhubarb grown outdoors can be harvested from April through September. If you are attempting to grow your own rhubarb, remember to only eat the stalks. The leaves are full of oxalic acid and can cause illness if ingested. If exposed to a frost, don’t eat the stalks as the frost can cause the oxalic acids to migrate from the leaves to the stalks.
How about a crumble?
Even though I love rhubarb and have a sweet tooth the size of Montana, I don’t make desserts very often. Primarily because I would just gorge on them and be the size of a house. But every so often, I like to whip up something sweet and this time it was a rhubarb crumble based on a recipe from the Food Network Kitchen.
My wife makes a great crumble and when she approved of this recipe, I knew I had to share it with you. It’s relatively easy and the hazelnuts in the topping give it a delicious and nutty texture. We ate the crumble without anything additional, but I wouldn’t pass up a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream if offered.
When cleaning rhubarb, I wash it thoroughly and used a vegetable peeler to remove the outer fibrous skin similar to the stringy bits on celery. When cutting rhubarb, be mindful that the juice is slightly red and will splatter (especially on your white backsplash).
I hope you like this dessert as much as we did. Live, Laugh, Love, and Eat Well.
Serves 4 to 6
For the Crumble topping
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup rolled oats
- ¾ cup sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 6 TBSP melted butter
- ½ cup chopped hazelnuts
For the rhubarb base
- 2 LBS rhubarb, cleaned and chopped into ½ inch pieces
- 1/3 cup sugar
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp orange zest
- ¼ tsp salt
Preheat your oven to 375 F.
Prepare the crumble by mixing together the first four ingredients in a bowl. Pour in the melted butter and add the hazelnuts and squeeze into large crumbles ¼ to ½ inch in size and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Place in the freezer and prepare the base. (Note: if the mixture is too dry to form the crumbles, add ½ to 1 TBSP additional melted butter)
Clean the rhubarb and toss it in a bowl with all the ingredients. Place the mixture into an 8 x 8-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Remove the crumble topping from the freezer and scatter it over the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Let cool about 15 minutes and serve.