Wednesday, July 25, 2007

RIP: Rhubarb x 2

I guess we are not meant to grow rhubarb. Last year it didn't grow at all after I planted it, and this year my two big healthy plants died, a few weeks ago. And I LOVE rhubarb. I was reminded about our plants demise when I just read this in an old article in New York Times.

Of the things she mentions, I have had all, but I can live without sea urchins. The rest is good food! But that doesn't help when the rhubarb goes bye-bye in the garden. I have always wondered who bit into the first chili pepper (very hot) and decided it might be good to add to their food. It happened in South America, probably in Peru, and at least 5000 years ago. That must have been something!

" Rhubarb, like manioc root, sea urchins and truffles, resides in a category of foods that by rights should never have made their way to the table. The bitter type of manioc can be lethal unless it is processed in some mysterious way. Sea urchins are covered with razor-sharp spines. Truffles are hidden beneath the soil and look like rocks. And rhubarb's majestic leaves, which conceal its edible stalks, are poisonous. Who looked under there to find out?

Whoever did wasn't greeted with a pleasant-tasting reward. Uncooked rhubarb is about as delectable as pond algae. And yet mankind persevered. We cooked it, we added sugar -- lots of sugar -- and we found out that nature can be kind. If you have ever grown rhubarb, you know that it is a prosperous plant, one that can take over your life every spring as you search for ways to tame its bounty -- much like its cousin, sorrel. This may be why most people settle on rhubarb jam. You can slice up the stalks, simmer them with sugar and be done with it. "

Well, that is, if it grows and doesn't die for you.


O.K. said...

I think what she means is that it takes some dedication to figure out how to cook it so it is edible. Fugu, the japanese toxic pufferfish springs to mind. Only special chefs are allowed to cook it, still several persons die from it every year. How many died before they figured out how to prepare it?

LS said...

Exactly - but then people don't live on pufferfish, it is a rare delicacy. Manioc however, also known as cassava, is a staple crop in Africa, but poisonious. So how did they figure that out? Trial and error I assume. And who tried the first pufferfish, died, but had time to tell it was delicious?