Thursday, May 19, 2011
Having grown up on my great-grandparents' homestead, which at one time hosted seven massive rhubarb plants, I didn't know if spring could really be spring without rhubarb pie, rhubarb cobbler, rhubarb muffins, warm rhubarb sauce over vanilla ice cream, rhubarb marmalade, so much rhubarb it oozed out your ears. And the neighbors, the ones on the other side of the bay who were only up a week or two at the most each summer had a garden choked with rhubarb, chives, and raspberries. It was a bramble of neglect and invasive edibles. Surely they wouldn't notice . . .
"Just take it," Andy's aunt, the longest permanent resident of the bay said.
Just take it?
So under the cover of dusk Andy, his cousin, and I stole over to the neighbor's cabin, shovel in hand. From the far corner of the garden, we took just a shovelful of rhubarb stalks and roots, hardly making a dent in the sprawling plant. Back at our cabin, we planted rhubarb in a raised bed and as we watered them, we giggle softly at our stealthy feat.
Thinking back on things, I'm not sure why I was so adamant about needing better producing rhubarb plants. The two stolen plants needed time to adjust to their new home and we didn't harvest any stalks last summer. Despite that fact, we ended up being gifted with so much rhubarb from other acquaintances that we had enough rhubarb to make a pie, muffins, sauce, and a batch of marmalade.
Barbara Kingsolver writes about zucchini season being the only time of year when people in small towns lock their houses and car doors to avoid gifts of unwanted zucchini. In northern Minnesota, rhubarb is the spring equivalent of zucchini. Even if you don't grow it, you'll manage to end up with an overabundance. It's like organic plant bombing.
Still, maybe I want to do some organic plant bombing of my own. Maybe I won't really feel like I've come of age until I can thrust Ziploc bags stuffed with fat rhubarb stalks into people's hands amid protesting.
I worried a little that karma might affect my stolen rhubarb plants. But every day the stalks grow a little bigger and we get one day closer to rhubarb pie. I have a feeling stealth rhubarb will taste just a little sweeter than any rhubarb I've ever had before.