ANN BAILEY: Tart, sweet rhubarb is a delicious harbinger of spring

One of the first things my mom and dad did when my husband, Brian, and I moved from Grand Forks to the country in 1994 was to plant rhubarb for us in our garden.

Ann Bailey

One of the first things my mom and dad did when my husband, Brian, and I moved from Grand Forks to the country in 1994 was to plant rhubarb for us in our garden.

It was much appreciated then and even more so now. Rhubarb is low maintenance and high yielding. The only things that Brian and I have had to do with it is to transplant it a couple of times and keep it picked.

My daughter, Ellen, and I harvested the first rhubarb of the season a few weeks ago. We picked a grocery bag full of big, thick stalks. I made a big batch of rhubarb sauce with it baked a strawberry-rhubarb coffee cake and brought some stalks to share with co-workers.

During the next few weeks I plan to make more rhubarb recipes, including muffins, desserts and maybe even some jam. Thanks to recipes I've received from family and friends, cut out and collected from newspapers or magazines or found in the Ritzy Rhubarb Secrets cook book my mom gave me several years ago, I have plenty of recipes to get me through the rhubarb season.

Rhubarb is a staple of many gardens so I know there are other people who will be busy making rhubarb dishes this spring. I'd like to share a few of my favorite recipes for readers who are looking for ways to use their bounty.


Here are some:

Rhubarb-Strawberry Coffee Cake


*1 16-ounce package frozen strawberries

3 cups rhubarb, chopped

1/3 cup cornstarch

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice


Combine and cook strawberries and rhubarb for five minutes. Mix sugar and cornstarch and add to strawberry-rhubarb mixture. Stir in lemon juice. Cook and stir until thick; cool.


1 cup sugar

1 cup butter

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder


1 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

*1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift dry ingredients in bowl. Cut butter into pieces and cut into dry ingredients. Quickly stir in buttermilk, eggs and vanilla until moist. Spread half of batter in 9 by 13 pan. Spread filling over batter. Dot with remaining batter.


½ cup flour

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup butter


½ teaspoon cinnamon

Mix ingredients. Sprinkle over top of batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling is set.

*Note: I used fresh strawberries instead of frozen and they worked well. I also substituted ½ teaspoon of almond extract for the vanilla. I liked the results even better.

Orange Rhubarb Sauce

4 cups rhubarb, cut up

1 cup sugar

½ cup orange juice

½ cup water


2 tablespoons grated orange peel

½ teaspoon mace or ¼ teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons corn starch

Mix everything except rhubarb and bring to a boil. Simmer until sugar is dissolved, and then add rhubarb. Return to a boil and then simmer for three to five minutes or until rhubarb is cooked. This is good served either cold or warm and is excellent on ice cream.

Traditional Rhubarb Sauce

4 cups rhubarb

½ cup water

1 cup sugar


Pinch of salt

Add water and pinch of salt to rhubarb. Cover tightly and simmer five minutes or until rhubarb is tender. Remove from heat and add sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved.

Rhubarb Dessert

Crust: 2 cups graham crackers, crushed

¾ cup melted butter or margarine

Mix, saving ½ cup for top. Press into 9 by 13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for five minutes. Cool.

Filling: 4 cups rhubarb, cut up

Few drops red food coloring

3 tablespoons corn starch

1¼ cups sugar

Combine and cook until thick and rhubarb is soft. Cool. Spread on prepared crust.

Topping No. 1

1 8-ounce carton whipped topping

1 cup miniature marshmallows

Mix and spread on cooled rhubarb

Topping No. 2

1 small box vanilla instant pudding

2 cups milk

Prepare pudding as directed using milk. Let stand three to four minutes until thickened. Spread on top of marshmallow mixture. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture on top. Refrigerate several hours before serving. Refrigerate leftovers.

Rhubarb muffins

1¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar

½ cup salad oil

2 teaspoons vanilla

One egg

1 cup buttermilk

2½ cups flour

½ teaspoon salt

1½ cup rhubarb, diced

1 teaspoon soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ cup nuts, chopped

Topping: 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 tablespoon butter, 1/3 cup sugar.

Combine first five ingredients. Stir in flour, salt, soda, baking powder, rhubarb and nuts. Spoon batter into greased muffin cups or muffin cups with paper liners. Mix topping and scatter over muffins. Press topping lightly into batter before baking. Bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until a toothpick placed in the center comes out clean. Makes 24 muffins.

*Chef Jeff's Rhubarb Crunch

1 cup sifted flour

5 tablespoons powdered sugar

½ cup butter

2 eggs

¼ cup flour

1½ cups sugar

¾ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups rhubarb, cut in small chunks

Mix together 1 cup flour, powdered sugar and butter in a bowl. Pat into bottom of an 8- or 9-inch square pan. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 15 minutes or until brown.

Beat eggs until fluffy and gradually add sugar, ¼ cup flour, baking powder and salt that has been sifted together. Stir in cut rhubarb and put in pan. Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

*This recipe is from Grand Forks Herald food editor Jeff Tiedeman, an excellent cook, so I know it's a good one.

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