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Spring brings rhubarb, a versatile veggie (or fruit?) with plenty of culinary applications

Last week you learned a little bit about asparagus. So what’s next on the list for seasonal eats? Rhubarb!

Another vegetable (or is it a fruit?) that pops up in early spring in many locations around the globe.  

Before writing this piece, I will admit I had never cooked with or tasted rhubarb ever before. I knew that it looked like a mix between celery and red chard but that it’s often used in dessert recipes. I knew it was my grandpa’s favorite type of pie, but I didn’t know much else.  

Just to clear things up, it is in fact a vegetable. Sometimes rhubarb stalks are solid red, sometimes almost entirely green, and sometimes they evenly fade from green to red. Red stalks do not mean the rhubarb is sweeter and in fact, some people think the greener varieties are actually the sweetest.

Rhubarb is quite sour in flavor and is typically consumed after being cooked down and loaded with sugar. If I had to describe the flavor I would say it falls somewhere between a cranberry and a strawberry. Today I wanted to share a simple recipe showcasing rhubarb, while also cutting back on the amount of sugar needed. And in this case, I used raw honey which is much less processed than traditional white sugar. This is a great beginner recipe and is quite the versatile topping.  

Honey Lemon Rhubarb Compote (yields about 1.5c)

You’ll need:

- 5c chopped rhubarb (washed, ends trimmed)
- 1/2c raw clover honey
- 2t lemon zest

Directions:

- In a pot over medium-low heat, add the chopped rhubarb (about ¼” pieces), honey, and lemon zest.
- Bring to a simmer and stir frequently, for about 25min.  
- Turn off the heat when the mixture has thickened and about 90% of the rhubarb has broken down.
- Pour into a bowl and place (uncovered) in the fridge until completely cooled.
- Store in a sealed jar in the fridge.

Notes: Orange zest would work in place of lemon zest if desired. It’s important to note that rhubarb leaves are toxic and should not be eaten. You will typically find it without leaves when purchasing at a store or market. If the compote is too tart, you can add more honey and cook for a few more minutes before taking off the heat.

Not sure what to do with this sweet but tart, fruity-tasting compote?  

Here are a few ideas:

- mixed with plain, whole milk yogurt
- topped on pancakes, waffles, or french toast
- spread on buttered or plain toast
- peanut butter sandwich with compote instead of jelly
- used as an ice cream topping with walnuts

I am now a rhubarb convert and am wondering what took me so long to try it out. What I love most is that I can find both the rhubarb and honey locally.   

Enjoy!

Ashley

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