Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Rhubarb and other Local Foods

It has been years since I planted a vegetable garden. Our city used to offer free 20'x20' plots for those who wanted to grow vegetables, but it was not uncommon to have your perfect tomatoes picked by someone else, and all watering had to be done by hand from an inconvenient single watering source. Some of our recent immigrants, especially those from eastern European and Asian countries, would tend the gardens nightly with their families and likely enjoyed good returns for their efforts. Our neighbours have converted their entire back yard into a vegetable garden and I do admire their tidy rows of healthy produce.

I grow a little lettuce and arugula, a few herbs and have a raspberry and rhubarb patch. The spring lettuce is always good, but the little bunnies have enjoyed most of it so far this year. My rhubarb patch was ready for its first harvest this week and today I made a rhubarb custard pie, rhubarb coffee cake and stewed rhubarb with raspberries. The recipes for the cake and pie are in my recipe blog, Come Home for Supper.

Earlier this year I wrote a post about the Buy Local, Buy Fresh initiative in our community, which encourages individuals and restaurants to buy and prepare local foods. Last week I purchased a book by Barbara Kingsolver (author of The Poisonwood Bible) called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. This non-fiction volume chronicles a year in which the author and her family made every attempt to eat local foods. They did all they could to avoid the "industrial food pipeline". I have not yet finished it, but so far it is an interesting read, with a sprinkling of recipes and plenty of personal stories.

My youngest daughter has never liked meat. As a baby, she refused the pureed meats and always loved legumes, vegetables, cheese and eggs. Friends would be surprised to see this toddler happily stuffing brussel sprouts in her mouth. Becka has asked me to help her prepare healthy ovo-lactovegetarian meals. She and I have been doing this for the past month or so, and feel very healthy and energetic. (My husband will always be a meat eater and loves his BBQ, but is not thrilled about grilled zucchini) Personally, I have decided to keep eating fish occasionally, especially the fresh lake trout and pickerel from recent spring fishing trips. The only substitute I need to work on is a replacement for the lard I use in my pie crusts. Lard makes the best pie crust and I refuse to use hydrogenated shortening. We do not eat very many pies in a year.

It is time for me to start planning a week (or two or three) of local food menus, both vegetarian and meat based. Rhubarb and asparagus mark the beginning of our seasonal crops and they are now available. We have several excellent farmer's markets within a short drive from our home. I don't regret buying a pricey Ataulfo mango this week to make a mango curry, but I would like to start a habit of buying more local fresh foods and becoming more aware of the environmental impact of my food choices.


  1. Anonymous7:23 am GMT-4

    Hmm, looks soo good! I will be right over for a slice!! :)

  2. Looks and sounds delicious! You put much more thought into your meals than I do. I make a lot of last minute decisions, usually having to do with the question, "chicken or pork"?

    I admire your abilities.

  3. I admire your ability to find/make time to plan your food choices.

  4. Meat Meat Meat Meat, and more pork too. Chicken and beef and lamb and goat. Shreds of things stuck in your teeth and the need to floss.
    Live in a country like this for a while where these things are hard to get and you really appreciate them. I miss good pork :(
    I did not rise all the way to the top of the food chain to eat only veggies.
    I am a vegetarian once removed, I only eat animals that eat vegetables.

  5. Rhubarb--yum. I love it. My step-mom grew it for a while & would give me some when I visited her & my dad. I love it cooked up with a touch of tapioca to thicken.
    I had to chuckle at sand land dad--an unapologetic carnivore.
    My own feeling is that there is no disputing in matters of taste--some like meat, some like veggies, some like all. Omnivore--that's me.

  6. Anonymous4:13 pm GMT-4

    One reason I love spring/summer is the availability of fresh produce and fruits at local farm stands. There were people buying corn today at the supermarket, and I wondered where it was from and how it was grown, since our famous "Jersey corn" is only about an inch tall, if that. Makes you wonder....

  7. I love Strawberry/rhubarb pie.
    I eat healthy foods along with the unhealthy stuff.

  8. Rhubarb custard pie....I have been trying to find that recipe for ages. Thanks for sharing Ruth! My neighbor has given me permission to raid his rhubarb patch since he doesn't use it.

  9. I'll be trying that recipe this weekend too- I just got a bagful of rhubarb from my MIL!!

  10. Monarch- I would love to share some with you!

    Mary- Making dinner after work is a daily challenge, rather, coming up with a dinner idea is the real challenge!

    Lynne- My good intentions are not always fulfilled. Friday night usually ends up with take-out pizza. Hope you enjoy the recipe.

    SLB- You are saying you don't get good meat in Dubai? I thought they had the best of everything there (except pork of course). Your fish choices are excellent though. You are at the top of the food chain!? Don't tempt your sister with a comment like that ;-)

    KGMom- I haven't tried tapioca for thickening sauce...what a good idea. I am not a picky eater when it comes to quality foods. My brothers and I learned to eat what was put in front of us.

    Laura- Your Jersey corn will be worth waiting for. I am not even tempted by early imported varieties.

    Larry- I don't think any food is really unhealthy in moderation. Strawberry pies always run over in my oven. I like strawberry rhubarb jam.

    RuthieJ- You rhubarb cake looks awfully good too (hint, hint)

  11. Oh, this brings back memories. I didn't like rhubarb as a kid. Now what I would give to stand in Grandma's kitchen and watch her bring her pie out of the oven. Ummmm.

  12. I don't think I've ever had rhubarb anything. What does it taste like exactly? Chicken? (tongue firmly in cheek.) :c)

  13. Cathy- We used to eat rhubarb raw as children, dipping it into a little sugar. I can feel my tooth enamel thinning!

    Jayne- Never eaten rhubarb! well, I cannot think of another thing like it. It is a vegetable stalk, not a fruit, and tree-ripened lemons are often less sour. You don't eat sugar, so you will not likely eat rhubarb. I sweeten the sauce with Splenda, but it doesn't work well in the pie.


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