Farmers' Market kicks off with rhubarb theme 0
Blairhampton farmer Angel Taylor shows off some of her rhubarb ahead of the Farmers' Market season opening. The market kicks off with a rhubarb theme on June 15 in Carnarvon. JANET TRULL/SPECIAL TO THE ECHO
If you attended the Farmers' Market last summer in Carnarvon (corner of highways. 118 and 35) then you probably already have this Friday, June 15, circled on your calendar. From 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. local farmers will have their tents set up, ready to tantalize you with locally grown produce, preserves, baked goods and other healthy treats. This year, they are featuring produce as it comes into season, and rhubarb is in the spotlight for opening week.
Nutrition: Once upon a time, every backyard had a rhubarb patch. It was usually near the back fence where its giant leaves could unfurl without crowding out the tomatoes and the onions. If you've never seen a rhubarb leaf open, it is an amazing sight. All red and knobby like a brain when it first emerges in May, the rhubarb leaf soon grows as big as 90 centimetres in diameter. And it thrives in just about any climate. The pioneers who settled in Haliburton County 150 years ago were disappointed when the crops that grew so well elsewhere, failed on our rock-strewn hillsides. But they had rhubarb! They threw it into stews and pots of beans. They brewed it for medicinal purposes, in particular to aid digestion. Benjamin Franklin swore by it as a cure for flatulence. Rhubarb can lower cholesterol, work as an anti-inflammatory and help with allergy symptoms.
The Politics of Rhubarb: There is a happy rhubarb patch hidden away on a back road in Blairhampton. Angel Taylor, the current chairperson of the Haliburton County Farmers' Market Association, lives there with her husband in a little pastoral paradise. Out past the sheep barn and the chicken pen, the rhubarb grows . and grows. She'll be at the market with her crop of rhubarb on Friday. Stop and have a chat with her. With the emergence of the local food movement, Taylor and the HCFMA board members are engaging with other community groups to address issues like sustainability, healthy living and poverty. Rhubarb, with its cost-effective nutritional value, is a good start.
Give Rhubarb Another Try: Love it? Hate it? Never tried the stuff? The easiest way to get the benefit of this vitamin-packed vegetable is to chop up a few cups of the stalk, add a little orange juice and brown sugar, and boil it down until it's the right consistency to pour on your ice cream or spread on your toast. Purists eat it right out of the pot. The best place to search for rhubarb recipes, according to Farmers' Market board member Rick Ratcliff, is the Foodland Ontario website. Have you ever tried Rhubarb Ginger Fool? Or how about Rhubarb Amaretto Mousse? Go to www.foodland.gov.on.ca and click R for rhubarb.
Even if you don't like to eat rhubarb, there are other ways to use it. You can clean your pots with it. That's right. there is something magical in rhubarb that can clean the bottom of a burnt pan quicker than a scouring pad. Or make up a batch of insecticide for your flower garden. Boil the rhubarb leaves (which are slightly toxic . don't eat them) in a big pot of water. Strain the liquid into a spray bottle, add a squirt of dish soap and you are ready to wage war on aphids and caterpillars. Sports enthusiasts might like to try Rhubarb Golf. Use a rhubarb stalk as a golf club and try to chip a ping-pong ball into a hoop.
Take the Rhubarb Challenge
Whatever your preference, it's time to get reacquainted with rhubarb. Come to Carnarvon on Friday afternoon and meet the men and women who have a bountiful harvest of this weird and wonderful vegetable to share. Then, when you return the following Friday for Garlic Scape, you can give them some feedback. Was it as tart as you remembered? Did it bring back fond memories of the Great Depression? Or did it surprise you and leave you wanting more?
Rhubarb when raw is so tough
And its leaves contain poisonous stuff,
But when cleaned and de-soiled
Dipped in sugar and boiled
Then the stalks are quite tasty enough.