This is another one of those foods that crosses the divide between vegetable and fruit. We have that same complication with the tomato, which is technically a fruit but which is more often than not served as a savoury. Rhubarb is classified in the UK as a vegetable but in the US it’s a fruit.
OK, so it’s a vegetable that is mostly used as a sweet, although chefs are increasingly presenting it alongside meats and fish. It has only been common as a food in Europe for a couple of hundred years. It was originally imported from Russia as a medicinal root, with miraculous qualities to cure many an ill and to render the plain beautiful.
We, these days, have our focus on the striking long stems which, whatever the legal definition, are found amongst the fruit in supermarkets and greengrocers. They have long been prized as the main ingredient in crumbles, tarts and pies although the author Elaine Lemm offers us some delicious alternatives in this charming little book.
If you are a traditionalist then you are bound to enjoy Rhubarb and Custard Crumble Tart, a unique confection that looks as good as it tastes – a combination of contrasting flavours and textures. I have, I admit, only ever stewed this fruit but this recipe has roasted rhubarb which is simple to prepare and has the advantage of a more intense flavour, a less mushy appearance than stewed, and a good pink colour.
The Great Book of Rhubarb is a must-have book for anyone growing rhubarb. The recipes are inspiring and range from the family-friendly to the cheffy and contemporary. I am rather taken with the prospect of some Rhubarb Schnapps!
The Great Book of Rhubarb
Author: Elaine Lemm
Published by: Great Northern Books
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018