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Garden Lifestyle

Seasonal Foods for Spring: Strawberries & Rhubarb

Besides the stirring of life in the garden, the welcome appearance of the harbingers of spring, other signs of the season are produce like fresh salad greens both cultivated and wild, leeks and spring onions, morels, asparagus, strawberries and rhubarb.

  • Strawberry and Rhubarb Compote is tart and sweet and a perfect springtime dish. Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Fresh red ripe berries and tart rhubarb stalks are a winning seasonal combo.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Slice rhubarb stems crosswise.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Cook the rhubarb briefly with maple syrup and herb sprigs.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • While rhubarb is cooling, hull the berries.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • The best tool for hulling strawberries is a grapefruit spoon.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • The serrated teeth on the spoon make it easy to remove the hull.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • I can hull berries faster with a grapefruit spoon than with a strawberry huller or a paring knife.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Slice the berries and drizzle them with a little grenadine.  
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Once the rhubarb has cooled, add it to the sliced, macerated berries and toss well. Your compote is ready to use however you might like!
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger

Besides the stirring of life in the garden, the welcome appearance of the harbingers of spring, other signs of the season are produce like fresh salad greens both cultivated and wild, leeks and spring onions, morels, asparagus, strawberries and rhubarb.

I love the combination of rhubarb and strawberries; I often use them together in a crisp or a crumble. Sometimes, I prefer their tartness to shine through and prepare the following compote, which uses less sweetener and the strawberries are not cooked. Rhubarb needs to be cooked and I like to pair its tart flavor with maple syrup, though sugar can be used if preferred. Just thinking of this combo makes my mouth water.

This is delicious served straight out of the bowl. For dessert, it is scrumptious spooned over ice cream or layered in a parfait, or topped with whipped cream. I enjoy it for breakfast atop yogurt, croissant or toast. Use it on strawberry shortcake or in a trifle, on top of biscuits, scones, muffins, pancakes, waffles or French toast. Add a spoonful or two, to a cocktail or beverage for a lovely libation.

Strawberry and Rhubarb Compote

This is a tart compote, not very sweet at all-if you prefer it sweeter just add a bit more maple syrup or grenadine-or even organic sugar. (Use a grenadine that is made from real pomegranate seeds, not one made from chemicals and red dye.) I quite like to add sweet woodruff to strawberries and rhubarb-it adds a suggestion of vanilla and new mown hay to the combo. If you don’t have woodruff, lemon balm imparts a sweet lemony flavor. If you are herbless (shame on you!), then you might add about 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract to the rhubarb once it is removed from the heat.

Serves 6 to 8

4 good-sized stalks rhubarb, otherwise use 6
About 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
Small handful of sweet woodruff or lemon balm sprigs
1 quart red ripe strawberries, preferably organic
1 to 2 tablespoons grenadine

Wash and slice the rhubarb crosswise into 1/2-inch slices and put them into a saucepan. Drizzle the maple syrup over the rhubarb and add the herb sprigs. Cover the pan and place it over medium heat, bring to a simmer, stir and reduce heat to low and cook for just 3 or 4 minutes. Rhubarb cooks very quickly-you want it to be tender though not mushy-so don’t overcook. Remove from heat and tilt the lid so some heat can escape; let cool to room temperature.

While the rhubarb is cooling, prepare the berries. Rinse and drain them in a colander. Remove their hulls; I find that the best tool for this job is a grapefruit spoon. It works better for me than a strawberry huller or a paring knife. Slice the berries into a bowl and toss them with the grenadine. Let them sit and macerate; they will give off juice.
Once the rhubarb is lukewarm to room temperature, add it to the berries and toss. Remove the wilted herbs if desired.

I prefer this compote served at cool room temperature. If prepared ahead and refrigerated, allow to stand for about 20 minutes to come to cool room temperature.


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