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Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb….

When I was a freshman in high school, I auditioned for the annual Gilbert and Sullivan production (that year it was Pirates of Penzance) and I snagged the role of  “a villager,” which involved lurking on stage in an ugly dress, chatting sotto voce with other villagers about the activities of the more interesting characters. The director (fresh out of drama school—she knew her stuff) told us that if we all spoke the word “rhubarb,” over and over, we would collectively sound like we were making intelligent conversation.

I’ve used the rhubarb trick in many theatrical crowd scenes (and at an occasional cocktail party) since then, but that vegetable had otherwise never touched my life until yesterday. Everywhere I looked on the internet, people were talking about rhubarb. They were saying that rhubarb is a) in season, b) considered by some to be a herb, by others to be a fruit, and c) it’s best when it’s skinny and very red, as opposed to fat and kinda green.

A lot of people suggest that the normal thing to do with rhubarb is to throw it in a pie with some strawberries, but I, having never been accused of normalcy, decided to change that recipe up. Try this variation on a rhubarb dessert, and if you don’t like it, just go look on the internet for an alternative. I’m telling you, everyone is talking rhubarb. The whole world sounds like a bunch of Gilbert and Sullivan villagers.

Rhubarb Apple Crumble

1 tablespoon butter, for greasing the pan

1 pound trimmed rhubarb, cut into ¾ inch pieces (about 4 cups)

2 Fuji or other sweet apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks

¼ cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons corn starch

¼ cup port wine


½ cup almonds

½ cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup quick-cooking oats

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup dark brown sugar, packed

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons cold butter, cut itnto small chunks

1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Grease an 8×8 baking dish with the butter.

2. In a large bowl, combine the rhubarb and apples. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and corn starch and then add it to the rhubarb and apples and mix well. Add the port and mix again. Pour the rhubarb mixture into the baking pan.

3. Place the almonds in a food processor and process until they are finely ground, about 20 seconds. Add the flour, oats, granulated and brown sugars, cinnamon and salt and pulse briefly to combine. Add the butter and process just until the mixture resembles small peas and starts to hold together, about 20 seconds. Spread the topping evenly over the rhubarb mixture.

4. Bake the crumble until the topping is golden and the fruit is bubbly, about 50-55 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, with a little whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, if desired.

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10 Responses to “Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb….”

  1. suzanne Says:

    My dad grew rhubarb on our side lawn when I was growing up. For years he tried to talk my mom—the ORIGINAL crabby cook—to make him a pie. No dice. Can’t remember what he did with the harvest….man, that stuff spreads!

  2. Amanda Says:

    Rhubarb is amazing in pie, but this recipe sounds so amazing. I might use it at some point. I’m always looking for new dessert recipes. The last thing I made was cookies out of a cake mix with fresh blueberries thrown into the mix.

  3. Stephen Says:

    The Gift That Keeps On Giving.

    I’ve had to give up on rhubarb. It’s the number 1 no-no for kidney stones. Don’t eat often, and drink lots of water with the serving.

    That said, being an old fart who’s been around a garden or two, I’ve always grown rhubarb. I think it’s associated with strawberries because they come at the same time and are shorted lived. So why not mix ’em up. I love the color. It’s very exotic for old rural folks.

    My wife is a strawberry rhubarb pie Goddess. I gotta admit, I hated giving it up.

    Late last year, my mother in law passed on. We’ve been caring for her, and taking over the homestead. The estate came with a ready made rhubarb patch. It was the seasonal event for many of her friends. Well, this year they started callin’ telling us that Odell had promised them some of her rhubarb plants. Now that she was dead, they wanted to know if the deal was still good. They’ve been coming out of the woods and the woodwork. We salvaged about 15 new starts. They need to be thinned every 3-5 years. And by god, come next spring if God allows, I’m haven’ Carol make some Rhubarb Apple Crumble and damn the kidney stones

  4. Stephen Says:

    A second thought, (boy, I’m runnin’ on all pistons now.)

    I had a sotto voce moment in “Die Fledermaus.” I was an underclassman college drama junkie and had to do it for credit. I was a “Background Servant”. During the big party scene.

    It was actually kinda cool dressing up in the powder’d wigs and the French brocade. And it was a non-singing, non-speaking part, So I was able to get pretty wasted and still pull off a credible, champagne server.

    We had to do a chitty- chatty thing too, but it wasn’t, rhubarb. It was something else, which I forgot, which leads me to wonder, how many various regional, international sotto voce’s, are there? It could be a website!

  5. Dave Says:

    When we bought our home, the previous owners left us a rhubarb patch which we have cultivated year by year, and often share the proceeds of with friends. As for your small part, an actor is actually credited on the movie “Poltergeist II” for essaying the brief role of “vomit creature”. To paraphrase an adage, there are no small parts, only small vomit creatures.

  6. Anna Says:

    Will you remind me to plant rhubarb next year, please? Sounds delicious…

  7. debb Says:

    our drama club used “peas and carrots….carrots and peas…..”

  8. bill/wm barker Says:

    saw a college production of “die fledermaus” with my friend fitzmorris dressed in a turbin, smiling and greeting the assembled nobility on the stage in the party scene. he never went to a rehearsal that i was aware of, and could have been quite stoned (not by the audience, of course) at the time, so i was very amused. i leaned over and asked the vocal instructor, who just happened by chance to be sitting next to me “which one is carmen?” for a joke. what i got in response was a long and very sincere lecture, loud enough for the audience to overhear, regarding the nature and history of this delightful period piece. so i just belted up and crouched lower in my seat…. bill

  9. bill/wm barker Says:

    i just wish you could have been there to barf on her, jessica!

  10. Douglas Waltz Says:

    My neighbors had a huge rhubarb plant that we would get stalks from every year. That first bite of raw rhubarb would sent a sour shockwave down our spines. Then we would do it again. I love rhubarb and will have to try this recipe.

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