About this time last year, when we’re all just about at that point of going absolutely stir-crazy, a curious thing happened. Rhubarb appeared. I don’t mean I suddenly saw oodles of it at the farmer’s market or at Reading Terminal. It stormed across nearly every blog I knew, dragging poor little strawberry along in its wake. It dug its heels into tarts and cobblers, burrowed into scones, and slid into jams and compotes. Let’s not forget the famous rhubarb pies, either. Absolutely everywhere, I was seeing something I had never tasted before.
You can imagine how badly I wanted to try some of it. The weekend after I was absolutely swamped in images of red celery (that’s what I always thought it was. No, seriously.), I trolled through the farmer’s market. No luck. On to general grocery stores. Nothing. Trader Joe’s? Zero, zip, nada. Finally, at this little Asian convenience store in West Philly, I found it. Well, I found one twisted, sad, withered little stalk, almost purple, and certainly bordering on mushy. Foolishly, I pinched a piece off with my thumbnail and stuck it in my mouth.
My eyes just about popped out of my skull. It was all I could do to inconspicuously leave the store before spitting that little bit out. It was far past its prime — that was my first mistake. The second mistake came, I think, in eating it raw. It tasted like moldy week-old mown grass smells. No, I thought to myself. I don’t care how pretty it is, I am never ever ever ever eating this stuff willingly. Never. Ever. And I didn’t. Not until yesterday.
I had seen it at Reading Terminal, bright and frisky, sitting up where only the tall people can reach. If you’re short, you’ll know what I’m talking about — I’ve been asked to reach for things by little ladies more often than I can recall. It hid behind the mound of yellow wax beans, and I probably wouldn’t have spotted it were it not for the fact that I stopped to scoop out about a pound of wax beans. Such a bright reddish-pink, brilliant and stunning in the drab hum-drum of the very last stretch of winter. What better way to welcome spring than to give it a go? Six stalks of rhubarb and two pints of strawberries later, I was zipping through the checkout and on my way to catch the bus.
Let me tell you — the grassy taste didn’t completely leave. I think that bit is seared into the crannies in my brain. But when baked with strawberries and a smattering of sugar, oaty goodness, and just enough flour to make it gooey? That, my friends, is what should usher in spring every year.
Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
1 Pint of strawberries, cleaned and sliced
6 Rhubarb stalks, cleaned and sliced
1/2 lemon (juice only)
1 tbsp flour
4 tbsp sugar
light sprinkle of salt
1/2 c oats
1/2 c flour
4 tbsp chopped walnuts
3 tbsp sugar (I like brown or raw, but all I had was white)
1/2 stick butter, melted
dash of salt
Preheat to 400.
Toss all the ingredients except those for the topping together in a bowl. Dump into an oven-safe container.
Mix all the ingredients for the topping except the butter. Mix well, then add the butter and stir until.. well, crumbly. Top the fruit mixture, and slide into the oven.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the top becomes a golden-brown.
Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes.
Tip: Delicious with vanilla ice cream!