Rhubarb is Back
The funny red-tinged celery sticks are back. They’re what the more food sophisticated know as rhubarb, a plant whose stalks are used by chefs, bakers and homemakers around the world to make pies and pastries as well as a dizzying array of other things — from soup to sauces for chicken, pork and other meat dishes.
Though the plant has many culinary uses, it hasn’t been widely developed commercially. A good-sized farmers market is about the only place where consumers will find the stalks.
“They came in late this year,” said Gorzynksi Ornery Farm owner John Gorzynski, of the rhubarb he was selling for $6 a pound at the Union Square Greenmarket. It will be in season for six to eight weeks, till around the time strawberries start coming up in mid-May or early June.
Rhubarb — one of the first edibles harvested on farms — has a smooth stalk, one of the obvious features that distinguishes it from celery. The perennial plant is generally considered to be a vegetable, except in the United States where it’s been deemed to be a fruit.
Bakers and pie-makers sing the praises of what many refer to as “pie plant.” Tony Nemeth, owner of Nemeth Orchards in Ulster Park, New York, a farm that sells baked goods at the Union Square Greenmarket, is one of them.
“It’s one of the more popular pies for a couple of months,” he said.
Nemeth sources his rhubarb from a neighbor’s prolific patch. He lost his own patch after he made the mistake of moving it.
“It’s easy to take care of,” he said. “It comes back every year.”
Caption for photo above: Rhubarb at the Union Square Greenmarket in New York City.