The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Under the mulch

Salamander, earthworm, and rhubarb buds

Huge pink buds under the leaf mulch give way to pale yellow leaves --- the rhubarb is ready to grow.  I rake autumn leaves off the rhubarbs, strawberries, and asparagus to give my early risers an opportunity to bask in the early spring sun.  Within minutes, I count two salamanders, half a dozen spiders, and innumerable worms.  It may just be my imagination, but the soil seems more alive than in mulchless Marches.  Once my plants spread out a bit, I'll push the dead leaves back underneath as mulch, but for now I don't want my perennials to fade away from lack of sunlight.

Meanwhile, with our freezer nearly empty, I'm eying those rhubarb buds with uncharacteristic glee.  I'm ashamed to say that even though I've had a very healthy patch for years, I don't think I've eaten a stalk.  What's your favorite rhubarb recipe?  (Not strawberry-rhubarb pie --- I consider any cooked form of strawberries a waste of their vibrant goodness.)

Don't miss my series on wild chickens, chicken coops, tractors and more this week on my chicken blog.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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My favorite rhubarb recipe is my grandmother's rhubarb coffee cake. I always freeze some rhubarb to have a taste of spring during the cold of winter.
Comment by Tracy Thu Mar 11 08:35:28 2010
There was a recent Backwoods Home Magazine article by Jackie Clay all about rhubarb. It had tons of different recipes. Maybe you could find it on their site. Sorry I don't have any to share myself. I've never grown it and I think I can honestly say I've never eaten it in my life. Hope to remedy that soon!
Comment by Bethany James Thu Mar 11 11:42:23 2010

For "fancy," my favorite is rhubarb-custard pie: rhubarb plus egg custard in a pie crust is absolute bliss! (Plus, I can just call it a meal if I want - fruit, protein and grain sounds like a meal to me! Anyway, that was always my mum's excuse when she fed us pumpkin pie for breakfast!)

For "everyday," I'd go with rhubarb sauce: it's very simple - just cook rhubarb and sugar in water, just as if you were making applesauce (although you may need a bit more sugar). I eat it alone, mix it with cereal or yogurt, and serve it alongside roast poultry or pork - very tasty!

Comment by Ikwig Thu Mar 11 14:43:55 2010
Thank you all for the suggestions! I'll have to give them a shot. (Ikwig, I'm afraid I'm guilty of that same logic when I eat pumpkin pie for breakfast... :-) )
Comment by anna Thu Mar 11 17:25:47 2010
Alas, I have no rhubarb wisdom for you but I just wanted to compliment you on the photos. I haven't found any amphibians yet on my urban property but there seems to be a healthy garter snake population.
Comment by Yanna Thu Mar 11 22:44:21 2010
Thank you! Salamander populations are very variable across the U.S., so you might not necessarily expect to see them. We happen to live in the salamander peak of biodiversity, so we see lots of them. But I think any invertebrate predator like salamanders and garter snakes is good news!
Comment by anna Fri Mar 12 09:24:47 2010

I agree with the comment above on making an apple-sauce-type stewed rhubarb. It's great on muesli, but it can also be put on a pie base, topped with crumble, and baked for a brilliant dessert.

Another cool trick is to drop slices of rhubarb on top of a vanilla cake before baking. They'll sink down into it during cooking and taste delicious. A bit like putting blueberries on top.

Comment by Darren (Green Change) Sun Mar 14 18:46:13 2010
Sounds delicious! We'll have to give all of that a shot. :-)
Comment by anna Sun Mar 14 21:13:39 2010

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