Years ago, when we were losing our crops to blight and other things, our neighbor Alan White, told us to find out what grows well on our ridge and plant a lot of it, then swap for other produce you might need with neighbors. Rhubarb loves it here, as do potatoes, asparagus, garlic, asparagus and berries. This year, my husband is trying arugula, because I spend money on that stuff and it’s imported from god knows where. That’s not to say that I don’t eat our weeds like sheep sorrel and dandelion, because I do. Our mint has also gone quite rogue and I’m picking new growth in our lawn along with the other weeds.
Rhubarb is bitter and needs added sugar to render it palatable, so it’s good for desserts, jams, and compotes, but it’s worth the extra sugar to get the fiber. I’m about to be really frank, but in my travels, on the radio and in my journalism work, I’ve had candid conversations with many people who, after a 5-minute conversation about their diet, reveal that they are chronically constipated and dehydrated. Yes, I said it. You all need more fiber and more water. (One person even told me recently that he’s so dehydrated, his pee is often brown and I have a witness). These obviously common conditions affect your overall state of mind, in addition to hurting your digestive system, and they’re so easy to fix with daily sides of fruit and vegetables. Dehydration alone can leave you fractious, ill-tempered and prone to rash decisions. The dish below is quite famous in England, Rhubarb & Custard being one of my homeland’s staples. Stewed or roasted rhubarb is full of water and fiber. Be sure to remove the leaves of the rhubarb which are toxic and inedible.
12 large stalks of rhubarb – remove the poisonous leaves plus a further half an inch of stalk – cut into one-inch chunks: about six cups
Half a cup of sugar
Mix the sugar and rhubarb chunks together in a Pyrex roasting dish and cover with foil. Heat the oven to 390F and cook the fruit for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove from oven and gently pierce a chunk with a sharp knife. The rhubarb should keep its shape and there should be a half-inch of sweet juice in the bottom of the pan. Cover and put back in the oven for a further five minutes. Add maple syrup if your rhubarb isn’t sweet enough for your tastes.
Serve with ice cream, yoghurt or custard.