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March 27, 2014

Over the years, many plants have come and gone for me. But I will never forget my very first love. She was a rhubarb. Tall and slender with thick, red stalks. Leaves as dark green as can be with pink streaks. She was strong and tough and came back to me, loyally, year after year. I miss that rhubarb.

It is definitely one of the favorites on the farm too. Rhubarb is a perennial, bringing forth its bounty year after year. It’s beautiful. Red and green stalks support a canopy of leaves that can stretch almost 2 feet long. On top of that, it’s one of our earliest crops. Harvesting fresh rhubarb in early May reminds us all of nature’s delicacy and generosity.

Rhubarb brings conflict, however. While the stalks are the focus of many delicious desserts, the leaves are, in fact, quite poisonous. Owing to its tart flavor and fibrous nature, rhubarb most often appears in dessert recipes. Rhubarb pies, crumb bars, tarts, muffins and jams fill the early gardeners pantry. It combines well with the first fruits of the season and often is paired with strawberries and raspberries.

Store rhubarb unwashed and wrapped in a damp towel or plastic bag in the crisper section of the refrigerator. Look for firm, crisp stalks. If you buy too much, you can freeze rhubarb and enjoy it during those hot summer months.