Rhubarb, the Wonder of Plants

Better Living Through Local Foods
By Katherine Rossmoore

Rhubarb reminds me of the sugar cane plants that grow wild on the island of Jamaica, where you see natives ubiquitously chewing on it to extract the sweet sugar within. Although in reality, it has nothing in common with Jamaican sugar cane except in its appearance and the wildness with which it grows. What makes rhubarb so remarkable as an edible plant though, is that it has no sweetness and really cries out for some to be added; I love the plants (like potatoes) that are seemingly inedible and are rendered wondrous through the cooking process.

Rhubarb plant from Heather’s garden.

Through being a member of Slow Food, I discovered the website called Food 52 (www.food52.com) which I’ve developed an obsession with; thank goodness they allow you to “save” the recipes you want to try – when I first found it, I was violating my own sustainability rule and printing out too many recipes!
Food 52 is not be confused with recipes I post on my own website www.betterlivingthroughfoods.com though. For my own site, I’m trying to provide folks with simple, easy, and not-too-time-consuming ideas for using whole foods. Food 52 is more concerned with the perfection of the end product, even if it does take all day to make. But, for those of us adept at reading recipes, I can find the ones that are fairly easy and quick, and I found the one for “Rhubarb Ginger Downside-Up Oatmeal Cake” (posted by a cook named Thirschfeld) and saved it long before I could find local rhubarb. (See, there are parts of the USA that are way ahead of us when it comes to Spring…)
So, I’ve actually made this cake twice: the first time I bought the rhubarb at the Marshfield Farmer’s market and made it for Mother’s Day. The second time, (I have to admit, really) I paid twice as much for Rhubarb at a local supermarket to make it for a party! (Editors note: a good reminder that Farmers’ Markets can often have the best price for local in-season produce.) I tweaked the recipe a bit, using Jamaican light brown sugar I brought back from my trip, upping the amount of the rhubarb and adding cinnamon for a little extra flavor. The full Tablespoon of fresh grated ginger seemed like a lot, but I used a bit less the 2ndtime around and it wasn’t as good. And Yes! Serve this with vanilla ice cream: it’s so worth it.


Rhubarb Ginger Upside Down Oatmeal Cake
Rhubarb mixture:

2 1/2 Cups sliced rhubarb
1T fresh grated ginger root
1 C brown sugar
¼ C unsalted butter

Oatmeal Cake:
½ Cup rolled oats
¾ Cup boiling water
¼ Cup unsalted butter cut into small cubes (or just softened really)
½ t vanilla
1 large egg
1  Cup light brown sugar (or use ½ white, half brown per original recipe)
1 Cup unbleached flour
1 t baking powder
¼ t baking soda
¼ t salt
Cinnamon to taste

Preheat oven to 350 °.
Gently melt ¼ Cup of butter in a large cast iron skillet and spread the 1 Cup of brown sugar over the butter evenly. Then, toss the rhubarb with the grated ginger and spread over the brown sugar in the pan and set aside.

Place the oats in a mixing bowl and pour the boiling water (3/4 C ) over the oats. Add the butter pieces or softened butter and set aside.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Once the oatmeal is cooled, add the egg, sugars, and vanilla, and mix to combine. Then add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing to combine.

Spread the cake batter evenly across the top of the rhubarb, sprinkled with cinnamon to taste, and place in the oven for 35 minutes.

When done, remove from the oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes before inverting onto a cake pan.  (The cast iron takes quite a while to cool down!)

Serve when cool.

The finished cake.

My husband loved it for breakfast the next day!

Katherine Rossmoore is a health and wellness coach, food lover, yoga teacher and writer.  Find her at www.betterlivingthroughfoods.com or “like” her on Facebook Better Living Through Foods Health Coaching.


About eSS&SC

The South Shore and South Coast has been home to hunting, gathering, fishing, farming––and great eating––for over 10,000 years. We are committed to identifying, devouring, and sharing all that Southeastern Massachusetts has to offer today and preserving local options for future generations.
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