Rhubarb is my new favorite food. Where-oh-where have you been all my life? I LOVE this stuff.
Before last week, I’d never made anything out of rhubarb, other than maybe a few sugar-stalk treats as a kid. You know, when you take a fresh piece of rhubarb and dip it in the sugar bowl with each bite. Nothing like white table sugar to take the edge off the tartness. And later your mom would ask why the sugar was so gummy. Duh, I don’t know.
I belong to the Grant Family Farm CSA and fresh rhubarb was in last week’s delivery box. Along with a bunch of other amazing, early-summer goodies like garlic scapes, celery, a variety of greens, radishes, and onions. I had to figure out what to do with the rhubarb and the garlic scapes, which are interesting and delightful little chlorophyl-green, curly-cue tendrils.
That’s what I love about belonging to a CSA. You don’t get to pick and choose according to your produce comfort level. You get what is seasonally fresh, whether you’re familiar with it or not. It’s fun to experiment. And eating a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables is the foundation for a healthy diet. When you incorporate all kinds of fresh (local and organic) food into your diet, you end up eating a wide spectrum of phytonutrients, carotenoids, and health-promoting vitamins and minerals. You get the best nature has to offer if you eat seasonal foods. Your body will thank you. Listen carefully!
Here are some June fruits and veggies to add to your shopping cart — plus, a recipe I made up for GF Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler. Beware, this has some of that old fashioned sugar in it and it’s terribly addicting. Serve it when you know it will be eaten in one sitting. And not by you alone! This would be great for your 4th of July barbecue
Cantaloupe — or rockmelon to all my Aussie friends
Because of its rich concentration of beta-carotene, cantaloupe is an excellent source of vitamin A. As an aside, some people with celiac disease complain of night blindness, most likely as a result of fat malabsorption. When you have intestinal damage and don’t properly break-down and absorb fats, the result is often an inability to utilize fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). If you are unable to assimilate the vitamin A you consume, you may end up with night-vision problems. Yep, that’s me! I feel like I have on very dark sunglasses when I’m driving at night. It’s a total bother, but now that I’ve been gluten-free for so long and feel that I’m on the mend, I make sure to eat LOTS of fruits and veggies that are high in beta-carotene. Studies have shown that a diet high in beta-carotene reduces the risk of other eye-related disorders like cataracts and macular degeneration. Cantaloupe is also high in vitamin C, which aids in boosting immune function and helps reduce the risk of heart disease. Good stuff, for sure!
These orange veggies of June are also packed with beta-carotene. In fact, carrots are at the top of the list, providing one of the richest sources available. Your mom was right when she bugged you about eating carrots for better vision. One cup of carrots provides about 680% of the daily value for vitamin A. Wow, so she knew what she was talking about, as mom’s usually do. Well, sometimes we do.
Tip: Cut off the leafy, green tops before you store a bunch of carrots. The tops draw moisture from the root (the carrot) and causes them to wilt sooner.
According to the Department of Horticulture at Cornell University, raspberries are considered the symbol of kindness in Christian art. The red juice of the berry represents blood flowing from the heart, which is thought of as the center of love and kindness. (Although I think it should be the liver, but I’ll save that digression for another post.) Greek mythology suggests raspberries got their red color from the blood of Ida, a goddess who pricked her finger while collecting the berries. The Latin name for raspberry is Rubus idaeus, which means “bramble bush of Ida.” Interesting little tid-bits, wouldn’t you agree?
Now on to the health benefits, although kindness flowing from the heart has to be a good thing! Raspberries are high in antioxidants, which protect the body from free-radical damage (I’ll spare you the details). They are also full of dietary fiber, which we all need more of. (For more information, check out a previous post I did on dietary fiber.)
Rhubarb — yeah!
I guess this love affair with rhubarb is nothing new. Early records date back to 2700 BC where rhubarb was used by Chinese emperors for medicinal purposes. Wow, and I thought it was something I discovered. If nothing else, I did discover a new gluten-free treat that tastes wonderful, and once again, reminds me that adhering to a gluten-free diet is really no big deal. The fact that rhubarb is considered a medicinal plant is just crumble on the pie.
Since I know very little about rhubarb, I’ll lift some fun information from Wikipedia, rather than focus on the health benefits. I’ll just trust those ancient Chinese emperors, although I do know from preparing and cooking with it, that rhubarb has lots of fiber. Again, trust me, that’s a good thing.
Do you remember the Michael Keaton version of the movie Batman? Leave it to Jack Nicholson (the Joker) to turn rhubarb into a risque word. He warns Batman to “never rub another man’s rhubarb.” Huh? Sounds rather suggestive, but it was actually meant as an admonition to leave his love interest (Vicky Vale, aka Kim Basinger) alone.
So, rhubarb means a sweet, louscious little tart? I guess so, and here’s my rendition.
Melissa’s Strawberry Rhubarb Juicy Crumble Tart
(if you can think of a better name, let me know)
what you need (for the fruit mix)
• 1 lb strawberries (washed, trimmed, and chopped)
• 5 or 6 rhubarb stalks (washed and chopped)
• 2/3 cup turbinado sugar (maybe a touch more depending on how tart your rhubarb is)
• 2 tablespoons Pamela’s GF Baking & Pancake Mix
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
• dash sea salt
what you need (for the crumble topping)
• 1/2 cup turbinado sugar *
• 3/4 cup Pamela’s GF Baking & Pancake Mix
• 1/3 cup Earth Balance Vegan Butter Sticks (cold)
• 1 cup chopped pecans
what you do
• put prepared fruit in large bowl
• mix up the list of ingredients for the fruit mixture in a medium-sized bowl
• pour over fruit, gently folding until all fruit is covered
• put fruit mixture in greased deep-dish pie pan (I used a large pottery pie dish)
• mix up all ingredients for the crumble topping (use a medium-sized bowl)
• using two knives, cut Earth Balance “butter” into crumble topping mix (you want pea-sized pieces)
• place crumble firmly over fruit mixture
• bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 40 to 50 minutes
• check after about 30 minutes to make sure crumble topping doesn’t over-brown
• you may have to cover with tin foil to prevent burning
• place tin foil on the bottom of the oven in case the fruit mix boils over — it makes a mess
Serve warm and bubbly topped with vanilla ice cream. YUM!
* I know, I know — lots of sugar. Just remember, sugar is not inherently evil, we just eat WAY too much of it. This is a treat, so go easy on it and don’t make a habit of it. I say that as I make my 2nd batch of this in a week. Hey, I have to use all the rhubarb Josh and Susan from Grant Family Farms forced on me. It’s not my fault. Plus, I had to perfect the recipe before passing it along to you. It took a couple of tries to get it right.
* Don’t eat the leaves of the rhubarb, just the stalks. The leaves have some potentially toxic substances.