Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb!

Our clump of rhubarb, with fatty-balatty stems.
Strong, thick stems, ensure plenty of flesh in the rhubarb. New growth coming on and some stems and leaves that I NEED to clear away from under the ripe stems.

This beautiful, hardy variety of rhubarb is the Riverside Giant with thick, medium length stems. Not overly sweet, but does not cook away to very little and when sweetened with other fruit (e.g. apple, plums, passionfruit to name a few in proliferation at this time of year in NZ) it is such a flavour-bud delight.

TIP: Cut away growth that is dying off and keep the new growth clean, meaning free of foliage and soil around the path. This deters critters from snacking on your plant and fungi and mould growth. In the humidity of our summer conditions, it is essential to keep as much air flowing around the plant under the huge leaves.

This year, I am going to dry some of the leaves in preparation for art and craft activities, with my students at school. I will also use them as a wrapping around bunches of flowers, which will be dahlias this summer, judging by the profusion of dahlia blooms in our garden.

Recipe to go with the post, is taken from Gizzi Erskine, from Drinks Tube, linked to Jamie Oliver`s site. It is a Rhubarb and Vanilla Cordial.

  • Cut cleaned, fresh stalks of rhubarb into cm lengths to make around 1 kg.
  • Add 3oo mls of filtered water.
  • Cook this for around 10 mins.
  • Strain through a sieve, keeping the stringy fibre for a compot to have with morning cereal and plain yoghurt.
  • Put the liquid back into the pot and add 300 gms of caster sugar.
  • Bring up the heat but watch so it doesn`t catch.
  • Split a vanilla pod, scrape out the seeds and add pod to liquid.
  • Take the juice of 2 lemons and add to the liquid, stir gently and remove the vanilla pod.
  • Let it bubble gently (not boiling) and reduce, until it is a syrup. (It will take around 10 mins.)
  • Bottle the liquid, in a sterilised, resealable bottle.
  • Seal the lid on while hot and leave to cool.
  • To make a spritz, prosetto, use a ratio of 5:1 (1: rhubarb and vanilla cordial to 5: fizzy water. ) Add an ice cube and enjoy.
  • The amount made is roughly equal to 25 servings. Keep cordial sealed in fridge.

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