Updated: Jul 13, 2020
There is an abundance of rhubarb around the island. I fell in love with rhubarb’s flavour a couple of years ago, when I made rhubarb gin. The seemingly never ending supply of rhubarb that spring has brought has allowed me to experiment further. I had a week where I had made cordial, jam and stewed rhubarb and Olly became quite addicted to the fruity sugary goodness! I liked the cordial a bit less sweet, so it still had the sour punch that good squashes have. While it has taken 3 attempts to set some rhubarb jam (with the help of some powdered pectin - rhubarb is very low in natural pectin), we enjoyed the unset jam spooned onto porridge for breakfast, or homemade yogurt for a “healthier” pudding. I also went a step further having finally perfected the jam and made scones and clotted cream, which is a heavenly combination, the jam is such a joyful pink colour too!
Of course there was the classic rhubarb crumbles and rhubarb upside down cake. Stewed rhubarb with Orkney vanilla ice cream, which prompted me to make my own rhubarb swirl ice cream.
I then tried rhubarb “champagne”, which wasn’t overly rhubarb-y in flavour (I hope to improve on that in batch 2), but it was so refreshing. We were drinking a bottle each at lunchtime during a week of warm weather. Perfect for hydrating after working in the polytunnel!
I have a few egg whites in the fridge, left over from carbonaras, which I’ll make into meringues to create rhubarb messes. Much like an Eton mess but with stewed rhubarb instead of the strawberries.
Rhubarb cordial, or “rhubeena”, can also be used to create a number of delicious cocktails, including rhubaritas (margaritas: tequila, lime and ice, plus rhubarb cordial), rhujitos (mojitos: rum, lime, mint, soda, plus rhubarb cordial), rubellinis (prosecco plus rhubarb cordial).
Extracting the juice from the rhubarb for cordial leaves us with the pulp, which can be turned into rhubarb leather (dried fruit puree), a great snack for when I'm out and about on the dyke. The pulp can also be mixed with a touch of gin/vo
But apart from edible/drinkable goodies, what can you use rhubarb for?
Rhubarb plants have impressive large leaves at the end of their red stalks. The leaves carry the toxin, so they are not useful in the kitchen, but they are useful in the garden…
After reading Joy Larkcom’s Grow Your Own Vegetables cover to cover, she inspired us to make a natural pesticide spray for our vegetable plants, which uses the leaves. We haven’t had to use it yet, I’ll report back on it’s effectiveness if we do.
Such big leaves can be used straight onto of bare soil between vegetable plants as a mulch, cutting out light to weeds below and helping to retain moisture. They’re also valuable in the compost bin if you’re looking for extra material to build up your supplies.
Or, as Olly has fashioned, a lovely sun hat!
Which leaves us with the roots. Rhubarb roots can be used as a lovely natural dye, giving shades or red, brown, green, and yellow, depending on the dye bath and mordant used. I haven’t got round to working with natural dyes yet, but it’s something I’d really like to experiment with, using the North Ronaldsay wool, plants and seaweeds found on the island.
I’ll be really sad when rhubarb season is over, but I am planning on canning some rhubarb so we can treat ourselves to rhubarb ice cream, crumbles etc over winter. I’m experimenting with canning as a way to preserve some of our homegrown produce without filling up our freezer. Canning is an American term for preserving produce in jars, using a water bath or pressure canner.
What's your favourite thing to do with rhubarb?
Rhubarb Swirl Ice Cream
🕓 1 hour 30 minutes 👤 Makes 1 litre
Ben & Jerry’s Sweet Cream Base 1
2 large eggs
150g caster sugar
480ml double cream
240ml cup milk
750g rhubarb , trimmed and chopped
1 large orange , juice and zest of
100g caster sugar
For the Ice Cream
Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, the continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Pour in the cream and milk and whisk to blend. Put in an ice cream churner.
For the Stewed Rhubarb
Meanwhile, place the chopped rhubarb in a medium-sized saucepan with the orange juice and zest, caster sugar, and 2 tablespoons of water. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 5 minutes until the rhubarb is soft and cooked, but still holds its shape. Allow to cool.
When the ice cream has finished churning, spoon into a tub, swirl in the stewed rhubarb, and place in the freezer to set.