Thursday, May 19, 2011

Stealth Rhubarb

When we moved into the cabin last spring, I discovered the only rhubarb plant on the property looked like it came from Alice in Wonderland's miniature world. The stalks were approximately the size of my pinky.

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.


15 comments:

  1. Don't feel guilty - the rhubarb needed a home that would love and take care of it :)

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  2. this made me smile... even though i can't stand rhubarb, I would have saved it too. :)

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  3. I've never eaten rhubarb before- what kind of Minnesotan am I? Although come summertime I'll take all of the zucchini and tomatoes people want to give me!

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  4. My husband likes rhubarb but I'm not experienced in it enough to decide. We don't grow any.. though we grow lots of other things. Actually I grow lots of things.. not him.

    I hope the person from across the bay isn't a blogger and reads what you've done! Wouldn't that be weird?

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  5. i don't think i've ever had rhubarb! my parents have an enormous plant in their garden, but never do anything with it. what does it taste like?

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  6. I've never eaten it either, but I love the way it sounds... rhubarb. Makes me giggle. :)

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  7. Ooooh, rhubarb!! My grandma made the best cobbler and I miss it so much. And you would not think you could kill a rhubarb plant but somehow we managed to do just that with some 'vintage' rhubarb we scored from my substitute granny. I'm afraid to tell her we killed it and ask for more. But I do want my rhubarb sauce and cobbler so... tail between legs shall I go and ask for some more cuttings. :)

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  8. Rhubarb is so heartly, by "pruning" her bush for her you probably helped it grow a whole lot bigger this year! So she should probably thank you for your diligence. I LOVE rhubarb. And zucchini for that matter. I can never have enough. Ok that's a lie. one time we had 15 on our table so I started just handing them out to people. hehe. So whenever I am gifted I love it! In the freezer it goes for winter baking goodies. Or in cans for preservatives.

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  9. Aren't you sneaky!!!!

    I love rhubarb.... I think I am going to use if for a recipe on my blog... cause I can't stop thinking about how much I love it :)

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  10. lol, I've never heard of someone stealing a rhubarb plant before. You're such a rebel : ) Glad it's doing well for you!

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  11. I've never had rhubarb, but I understand the sentiment of "gifting" goods. Around here it's greens and tomatoes. It seems we have collard greens and turnip greens coming out our ears, so everyone shares with everyone else. I love it!

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  12. I have to move to Minnesota. Wild blueberries AND rhubarb! Lucky you.

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  13. Your stealth rhubarb comment at the end gave me the chills, Ada :)

    I have been warned time and time again about zucchini season here in southwest michigan. And string bean season, too. I'll believe it when I see it....and then I'll do a hearty jig that I was able to not-kill my entire garden :D

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  14. Lol really cute post! This kinda makes me want to try rhubarb!

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  15. I've never tried rhubarb! I don't think they grow in my country! Cute post!!

    Happy Monday!

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