When we were kids, my cousins and I loved to pull stalks of rhubarb off the plants in the back yard and eat them raw, still warm from the sun, dipped in little dishes of sugar. Our parents did the same when they were kids – same backyard, same rhubarb plants, and probably the same sticky faces too.
The rhubarb in your CSA share this week is from the same plants, which have been growing here on the Tremblay homestead since the 1950s. We think of the plants as a living, delicious family heirloom, left for us by my grandparents. For Cian, caring for the rhubarb plants — mulching them, dividing them, harvesting hundreds of pounds each spring — is a tangible connection to my grandfather, a man he was never able to meet. My grandfather was a gardener at Naumkaeg and Shadowbrook (now Kripalu), and it seems entirely likely that we are harvesting from plants initially taken from a division of a plant from one of those grand Berkshire Cottages of the Gilded Age – which obviously makes it some of the fanciest rhubarb around, right?
Our eldest child, Bridget, is four and a half now. She’s been eating rhubarb straight off the plant since she was two, but this was the first year I handed her a little dish of sugar to go with it. I wish I had a picture of her face in that moment, a combination of surprise, delight, and suspicion (as though she was thinking, what’s the catch here lady?). “It’s okay, babygirl,” I told her. “It’s a family tradition.”
When she was done she snuck up and gave me a big kiss, sticky face and all.
Rhubarb: It’s not just for pie! Here are a handful of recipes we love: