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THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

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TODAY IN FOOD: It’s National Rhubarb Pie Day

Rhubarb is a vegetable, not a fruit. The giveaway might be that it looks like red celery stalks with cabbage-like leafy tops (some can be dark green like spinach or kale). By the time it gets to market, the leaves have been cut off, and we only see the red stalks. Native to Asia, rhubarb has long been used in Chinese medicine. As anyone knows who has cooked rhubarb, it needs copious amounts of sugar to offset its natural bitterness; thus, its use as a food didn’t come into play until sugar became widely available in the 17th century. But since then, what a joy! Stewed rhubarb is a delight, as is a rhubarb or strawberry-rhubarb pie or crumble. We’ve made rhubarb ice cream too—terrific! The reason you don’t see more stewed rhubarb or pie is that it’s relatively laborious to work with the vegetable. It’s fibrous, so after you cook it, you need to process it through a Foley food mill. But we learned the joys of cooking rhubarb from our Nana, and assure you, it’s worth it.   rhub-230.jpgRhubarb—it’s pretty, and after you add lots of sugar, it’s tasty. Photo courtesy of
We’re not certain why today is National Rhubarb Pie Day, since the vegetable isn’t harvested until April/May in the Northern Hemisphere; and Southern Hemisphere readers have missed the October/November harvest. So, enjoy a piece of seasonal fruit pie—apple or pumpkin, perhaps—and start perusing recipes in advance of pumpkin season. Plan to make a pie or crumble for your own Nana for Mother’s Day.

How can you tell the difference between a fruit and a vegetable? Fruits carry their seeds on the inside—think apples, bananas, melons, pears, and plums. The only exception is the strawberry. By the same token, the following “vegetables” are botanically fruits; we just think of them as vegetables because they are not sweet: avocados, eggplants, olives, squash, tomatoes and zucchini. (Avocados and olives are tree fruit, just like apples and oranges.)

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