Monday, May 16, 2016

A good reason for gardening

My wife and I spent much of this weekend putting in our garden at the community garden where we have a plot. I don't know what I'm doing and more or less refuse to figure it out. This year we covered everything in half a foot of straw. That's a lot of straw. Our plot is beautifully, if incongruently, golden. I mostly planted tomatoes, from plants I bought at the garden store. All things being equal I should be waiting another week or so for planting tomatoes here in chilly Minnesota, but when have things ever been equal? I'm still eagerly awaiting the day things are equal. I am frankly irritated at how much they simply aren't equal.

As the summer goes on my tomatoes will mostly grow heavy with fruit, ranging from exquisitely sweet to bland and nearly inedible as is, and 50 percent of everything else I grow will sort of work out. 

I expect little, hope for a lot, and split the difference.

We have two rhubarb plants in our garden. One was in the plot, in the Northwest corner, there when we inherited it, and it's huge. The other we accepted as a gift and planted before we understood just how huge the other one was. My wife was cutting stalks of rhubarb from the big plant today to put in the Community Garden's cooler for food shelf pick up. I looked at the endless rhubarb and thought "I guess if that's food maybe I should do something with it." So I cut a bunch of stalks for myself and brought them home. Oh, there's plenty to go around. But it will be at least a month before there's anything else to eat from the garden, maybe two, so I better get what I can when I can.

Now rhubarb is strange, mostly because it's a vegetable that's entirely like a fruit. It's the reddish stalk of its giant leaves we eat. When one cuts it down to edible components it is vaguely similar to celery, except red. But look who I'm describing rhubarb to! You've probably been messing with rhubarb your whole life. You're probably a rhubarb expert. Nevertheless today I have a rhubarb recipe so complex, so mindbending, that you will likely never have imagined such a thing.

Rhubarb Recipe


Cut up rhubarb
Some honey
Pinch of salt (because I'm fancy like that)


Put them in a pot and cook them.

This is the very recipe I made tonight. I ended up with a sauce, a rhubarb sauce. I don't know what to do with it exactly, but it was unbelievably delicious. No, I mean that literally, as in not believable. I tasted it and was so surprised at how good it was that I kept trying to work out how I was wrong and how it wasn't really that good. Un believable. But I'm pretty sure it really was that good.

Wait here. I have it in a jar in the refrigerator. I will go taste it again.

Hmm. A bit sludgy looking. I take a spoonful and put it in my mouth. There is a hint of the vegetal at first, then sweet sour bursts into and across my tongue, strawberries, and something more subtle, the ghost of some wonderful flavor, the secret hidden flavor of rhubarb, unfindable but taunting my taste buds and leading them on a merry chase. Exhausted my tastebuds fall back and reside.  A quiet subsidence follows. My mouth grows calm. 

Interestingly there is no taste of honey in it at all.  The honey was surrounded by the strength of the rhubarb and worked all its magic from behind. All aftertaste of the sour sweet rhubarb is clean, a counter intuitive purity. 

I have heard of rhubarb before, a crude Midwestern country fair food only to be combined with other, better foods. So all this in my experience can't be right. And yet there it is, in my refrigerator. All humble magic. Waiting.

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