I came up with this idea while on assignment for Budget Living magazine. The idea was approved but sadly the magazine folded shortly thereafter and I was never able to see this concept to fruition.
The editor had asked me to come up with something for wedding season, a request that kind of made me laugh inside at the time because here is where I admit something that will either horrify and alienate a percentage of my readers and/or limit my future potential revenue stream: I don’t care for weddings.
I know they’re really just big, fancy parties but even big, fancy parties are a bit too ostentatious for my taste. I like to have fun, just not when that fun comes at the expense of truly enjoying myself or you know, spending money I don’t have. And the pressure. Weddings are so rife with pressure. The warnings are numerous. This is the most important day of your life, they scream. So it HAD BETTER be perfect! I’ve experienced a lot of drama at weddings over this false premise. During my one and only (never AGAIN) poorly executed maid-of-honor appointment I had to talk the bride off several proverbial ledges over what I thought were inconsequential details like, say, the colour of the fabric that the ring pillow would be made from. It HAD to match perfectly, don’t you see? Except the thing is, it did match perfectly.
Rhubarb has come into season here in the cold north, and while I can’t say I’m much of a fan, my spouse is — I suppose its only fair that he gets to have something he likes every once and a while.
I’ve never grown rhubarb so I can’t tell you much about how to grow it except to say that if you live in the right climate it doesn’t seem to take much work. Growing up, it seemed anyone with a yard had a massive clump of rhubarb tucked into a back corner or next to a shed. Even the most untended yards, occupied by discarded household appliances and car parts, and home to extremely negligent residents managed to keep an old rhubarb (probably the remnant of a long gone former tenant) alive with barely a glance in its direction. While I figure rhubarb isn’t a particularly taxing plant to manage, we just don’t have the space to commit to a large, leafy plant whose season comes and goes in a heartbeat.
Every spring I buy a few stalks at the farmer’s market. While I don’t love the tartness, I can’t seem to resist those pretty, bright red stalks! And if you mix them up with the right ingredients rhubarb is actually kind of tasty.
Notes: You can double the Crisp Topping mix if you like a thick and crunchy topping. I added ginger and orange juice because we had some kicking around that was about to go off. It makes a very interesting flavor but of course you can omit both or all and still turn out a great tasting crisp.
- 2 cups diced rhubarb stalks
- 2 apples (peeled, cored and chopped)
- 2 cups diced fresh strawberries
- 1/8 tsp fresh grated or finely chopped ginger
- 1 tbsp maple syrup or agave syrup (dry sugar works too)
- Juice of 1/4 of an orange (optional)
- 1 tbps flour
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup spelt flakes or oatmeal
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup brown sugar (The amount depends on what you are used to. I use less because we eat very little sugar)
- 1/3 cup of cold, cubed butter
- pinch of powdered ginger
Chopped and diced fruit.
1. Place filling ingredients in a bowl and toss until the fruit is coated.
2. Dump ingredients into a 9″ square or round baking dish.
3. Combine crisp topping ingredients in a food processor. Mix until crumbly. Break up any large chunks of butter with a fork.
4. Spread the crisp topping evenly over the surface of the dish, covering all the fruit.
5. Bake at 350F until the topping is brown and the fruit is tender.
6. Serve warm or cold. It tastes good no matter how you eat it.
I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at this scene lately. Just standing still for minutes at a time staring into what is quickly becoming known as The Abyss. Staring and thinking. Thinking about where these plants will go. Thinking about which of these plants will have to be given away. Trying to keep in mind that there are other plants that haven’t even made it to the outdoor Staging Area/Holding Pen/The Abyss yet. And that those plants will also need a space to grow, live, flourish, make delicious eats.
Probably the biggest plant placement dilemma I am facing right now is finding a space for these ‘Painted Lady’ sweet pea seedlings I started in a moment of Hopeful Optimism/Garden Size Dysmorphic Syndrome. I have been staring at that cluster of seedlings all week hoping that the perfect place will magically appear by sheer force of will. Because that’s how it works right? Just like some kind of The Secret-like scheme, but for gardeners.
Gah! I just can’t let them go!
Spring is such a high-impact time in the garden that I figure this yoga series geared towards the aches and pains caused by repetitive physical activity in the garden just might be in order for a good many of us today.
Too bad they don’t have a corresponding pose for this morning’s back injury, hauling several heavy bags of container soil up three flights of stairs to the roof garden. The only cure for that is one of prevention. I.e. Getting someone else to do it. I will probably have to schedule some time tonight for a long soak in an herbal bath with a dash of Epsom salts. Followed by a nap. I know it’s Calgon that’s supposed to “take you away”, but sinking an orifice into that feels like soaking in a vat of Febreeeze-like substance.
The garlic mustard population is really getting out-of-hand at the community garden this year. I’ve discovered loads of it in unused areas of disturbed, lousy soil and it is expanding rapidly into the edges around plot beds. I was diligent in removing much of it last year so the population isn’t big enough yet to really get under my skin, but this plant is so prolific, and such an evil overlord taking over wherever it sets roots that I’m going to have to get at it with due diligence to avoid disaster next year.
For those who’ve had the good fortune of avoiding it, garlic mustard is an extremely invasive, biennial plant that was probably brought to North America by European settlers, most likely to be cultivated for food and medicine. And I can see why. It’s delicious stuff and the herb books are filed with useful garlic mustard-based remedies. The plant also over-winters nicely under snow, even in my region, which for settlers probably meant something green in the cold months. Unfortunately the plant got loose and has since become a bit of a botanical menace, encroaching on native woodland plants in many parts of the Eastern United States and southern parts of Ontario, Canada (where I live). In fact it’s become such a pain that local communities are starting to band together on special garlic mustard eradication days, going out into woodland areas in groups with the sole purpose of removing the plant.
But like I said, there is a bright side to this — we can use our mouths and stomachs to help keep this bad ass botanical in check. The leaves have a strong garlic flavor and the roots have a bit of a kick making them a good substitute for horseradish (incidentally also a menace). When pockets of it started to turn up in my own gardens last year I figured I might as well figure out some use for it while going through the pains of pulling it out. We’ve tried a few recipes but I am finding that I am as sensitive to this plant as I am to garlic itself. We’ve enjoyed it, but in much smaller quantities than are harvested. The other key to use that I have found is to mix it up with other ingredients. This tempers the bitterness, and in my case prevents digestive upset.
While the leaves are bitter, young leaves can be eaten fresh in salads if you remember to harvest in the early spring. The plant is generally tastier BEFORE the flowers and seeds appear which is a good thing because it’s advised to get them out of the ground before the seeds have a chance to spread. It can also be sautÃƒÂ©ed or wilted like spinach. The garlic flavor goes nicely with butter. And mushrooms. Maybe with a pinch of salt and a splash of lemon. Yum. Pesto is a popular use since the bitter garlic flavor works nicely on pasta, no additional garlic required. Making pesto is also a good way to use up and store the plant for long term use. Just package it up and keep it in the freezer. Don’t worry about running out, for better or worse there will be plenty more next year.