Saturday is Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Day in Mandan.
Come on down to Susie Q's and buy a pie, or jar of strawberry rhubarb jam.
10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
outside the old beanery next to Dykshoorn Park, West Main Street, Mandan. Also it's time to deck your garden with lots of wonderful items from Susie Q.
IT’S RHUBARB TIME and surprise, surprise June 9 has been named national strawberry rhubarb pie day.
The warm, the wet, this wonderful weather brings us rhubarb. A common plant grown on every farm of my childhood, there’s always a rhubarb patch next to a garage on every homestead. As children, we played under the canopy of enormous rhubarb stalks.
Varieties of rhubarb have been discovered in history since ancient China. It has been used for medicinal purposes during the plague and given as gifts to the king. Many historical events surround ancient Chinese rhubarb, and some can be found at http://www.rhubarbinfo.com/rhubarb-history.html.
According to the website for the “Rhubarb Capitol of the World” in Sumner, Wash., rhubarb was smuggled to Seattle in 1893 by Adam Knoblauch from Eastern Europe. The German people tasted rhubarb while in China, and as they say, the rest is history. There’s a complete recounting of the growth of rhubarb production in Washington at the website: http://www.ci.sumner.wa.us/Rhubarb/History.htm.
If the Germans loved rhubarb, they no doubt brought it with them to North Dakota when they settled the “triangle” of Germans from Russia in the central part of the state. A good German can turn rhubarb into just about anything. Many abandoned houses in small towns still have thriving rhubarb plants in the backyard.
Rhubarb (as well as Germans) are cold-hardy making it a perfect plant for this zone. It grows until temperatures reach 90 degrees in the summer and goes dormant. It is usually the first edible perennial that appears in the spring.
Rhubarb grows itself. The large-leafed plants will thrive in well-drained soil of almost any type but prefer lots of organic matter in slightly acid soil. Fertilize new growth in the spring with either a commercial mix or well-aged manure.
If you cannot obtain cuttings from your neighbor, you can purchase plant roots. Growing rhubarb from seed is not recommended because it takes too long to produce a good healthy plant. Space the roots two feet apart if you decide you need more rhubarb than one plant can provide. Once established it is a prolific producer and will continue to grow new stalks until it becomes too hot. Usually, one or two roots will provide enough rhubarb to eat fresh and freeze for winter.
Do not pick the first year’s crop; the roots need those leaves to become established. As your plant grows larger and roots more crowded, it's time to separate and share the cuttings or start new patches.
In addition to being easy to grow, studies show that rhubarb has anti-cancer properties and when eaten fresh is an excellent source of fiber.
The acid in a cold piece of fresh rhubarb can counterbalance stomach acid. Some also believe that rhubarb extract can alleviate hot flashes.
This fantastic plant also has anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy properties which would explain why the Chinese valued this fruit for treating almost anything that ails.
There is a toxic chemical in the leaves, however, so you do not want your animals or children ingesting them. They do however work very well for concrete bird baths and other fun art projects.
Around here, we love rhubarb pie made in a fashion similar to an apple pie with fresh fruit, sugar and cinnamon.
Here is an alternate recipe from my mother. She used to make pies, juice, jellies, and more from her rhubarb patch that may still be growing in the lot of their former house in Fredonia.
Rhubarb Pie Filling
2 cups cubed rhubarb
1 ½ cups fine breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons butter
1 ½ cups sugar
Brown bread crumbs in butter, add beaten eggs and sugar, mix with rhubarb and pour into 9-inch pie crust. Bake at 425 degrees until firm.
Sue B. Balcom
Writing, or maybe talking, comes naturally to me and under the guidance of a great newspaper editor I have acquired skills that led me to author four books.