Log Cabin Chronicles

greg duncan

© 1998 John Mahoney

The Gallivanting Gourmand

Rhubarb - good and good for you


Need something to help your digestion? Spring is here and a natural tonic may be sprouting in your back yard.

Rhubarb seems to grow everywhere in these parts and should not be ignored. What you have here is a great medicinal plant that can help purge and cleanse the body. A soup or juice made from this stalky plant with huge leaves will leave you feeling as good as new and, well, as fresh as spring.

Europeans have known about rhubarb's medicinal properties for centuries and its arrival in England in the 16th century saw culinary applications from pies to jams and jellies. Its popularity grew in Victorian times because of its ability to be forced. This meant it was available when other fruits were out of season.

Garden rhubarb is the variety that we Canadians know best. What child did not chomp on a piece or two on a warm spring day while grimacing at its tartness? I still remember a toothy chew that released a juice so tart that the muscles in my neck under the ear were taut as rubber bands. My parents never seemed to mind us raiding the rhubarb patch, as it seemed the more you picked, the more grew back.

Little did we know how good this freebie was for us. The stalks are rich in potassium, vitamin C, and calcium. The leaves however, are toxic and should be left alone. Throw them on the compost heap.

Although eating rhubarb raw has its moments, more often than not, we cook it. Usually we use it in pies with a lot of sugar or pair it with the ever-popular strawberry in a jam. Its tart flavor unsweetened contrasts well though with rich savory dishes.

Asian and Middle Eastern folk like to use it as an accompaniment to meat or fish and the following recipe gives you a chance to explore rhubarb's savoury essence. The sauce would accompany lamb chops as well as this application for pork chops.

Pork Chops with Rhubarb Sauce

  • 4 pork chops, 1-inch thick

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • 3 tbs olive oil

  • 3/4 cup orange juice

  • 2 tbs sugar

  • 2 tsp chopped rosemary

  • 2 cups rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces

  • 12 green onions cut into 2-inch lengths
Season chops with salt and pepper. In a large skillet with a lid, heat oil on medium.

Brown chops 4 minutes per side. Remove from pan and keep warm.

Discard any fat and add orange juice, sugar, and rosemary to the pan. Stir to dissolve sugar and deglaze pan.

Add rhubarb, cover and simmer 5 minutes until rhubarb is soft. Return chops and any juices to pan.

Add onions, cover and cook 4 to 6 minutes until chops are cooked through.

Serve with a nice chilled dry rosé.

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Copyright © 2000 Greg Duncan/Log Cabin Chronicles/05.2000