Rhubarb – no kids allowed

There were only three plants that thrived in the tiny  backyard behind the tiny house I grew up in. One was a vicious climbing rose that strangled the fence and lived to lacerate any children stupid enough to venture near (mostly me). The second was a pussy willow that had grown from a single stem rooted in a glass of water on the window sill when I was eight or nine. Even as a child I knew the willow was a stunted, hideous thing allowed to live only because I had grown it myself.

It’s a bit of a mystery why nothing much grew in that backyard – the garden next door was magnificent and the Greek family’s yard two doors down was a Mediterranean riot of tomatoes, grapes, beans and eggplants. But, for some reason, even the spindly dandelions in our yard struggled. The only thing (besides the killer rose and the warped willow) that prospered was the rhubarb patch.

I am not sure if we ever actually made anything with the rhubarb, but it was an early summer ritual for the kids on our street to show up at my house to get a little bowl of sugar and a couple of stalks  of rhubarb stripped of their (we were sternly warned) deadly leaves. Then, we’d all sit on the front steps dipping the stalks in sugar before chewing off the smallest bite, grimacing at the sourness that even a thick coat of sugar couldn’t fend off.

When our friend Maria recently brought over a bunch of rhubarb from her own backyard I was sorely tempted to gather the kids on the porch and start the rhubarb-in-sugar tradition at our house.  But I realized the most that suggestion would get me would be a couple of texts that went something like this: “omg u won’t believe what my dad just tried to make me eat! 4get it. lol.” World-wide ridicule on the world-wide web.

Rhubarb syrup

Mix a little of this syrup with sparkling water over ice for an interesting summer drink. Mix it with water and make popsicles or, better yet, with some prosecco or other sparkling wine for a Rhubarb Bellini.

1 cup roughly chopped rhubarb

1 cup sugar

1-1/2 cups water

Combine all ingredients in a pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce hear and simmer for 20 minutes or so. Strain through a fine mesh or cheese cloth and store syrup in the fridge.


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