First rhubarb harvest

Canada red rhubarb, planted last year, photograph taken early spring.

With David’s parents visiting last weekend, I decided to harvest the first of the Canada red rhubarb I planted last spring – and make stewed rhubarb Eton mess for dessert.
I cut several stalks – although later learned you can remove them with a strong tug as well.
The stewed rhubarb I ate as a kid contained, I am positive, only two ingredients: rhubarb and white sugar.
Since whipped cream and meringue (the other two ingredients in Eton mess) are quite neutral, I decided to use the rhubarb as a vehicle for more flavour.
We had a busy day planned for Saturday (including stops at the St. Lawrence Market for fish and Mountain Equipment Co-op for our upcoming trip to Colorado), so I stewed the rhubarb and made the meringue Friday night.
The beauty of Eton mess is the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s also quite pretty layered in a glass – too bad I forgot to take a photograph.

Stewed rhubarb Eton mess

stewed rhubarb
whipped cream

Layer stewed rhubarb, meringue pieces and whipped cream in a glass.

Stewed rhubarb
Use more or less orange rind and/or ginger depending on your taste preference.
Adapted from this recipe.

rhubarb, chopped into 2-cm (1-inch) pieces
80 mL (1/3 cup) brown sugar per 250 mL (1 cup) rhubarb
5 mL (1 tsp) grated orange rind per 250 mL (1 cup) rhubarb
5 mL (1 tsp) grated ginger per 250 mL (1 cup) rhubarb
15 mL (1 tbsp) water

In a covered saucepan on high heat, bring ingredients to a boil.
Remove lid, reduce heat and simmer until rhubarb is soft and desired consistency is reached, about 10 minutes.
Stewed rhubarb will keep in the fridge for at least a week. You could also freeze it.

A meringue with two egg whites will make Eton mess to serve four.

egg whites
60 mL (1/4 cup) granulated sugar per egg white

Preheat oven to 250 F.
Using stand mixer, whip egg whites on high until frothy. Slowly add sugar, continuing to whip, until mixture is glossy and stiff peaks form.
Spread on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake 1 hour. Allow to cool. Break into pieces. Store in an airtight container.

Whipped cream

heavy (35 per cent) cream
granulated sugar

Using stand mixer, whip cream (I used less than 250 mL for four servings) until soft peaks start to form. Add sugar, continuing to whip, to taste.


Just add chives

If there has ever been a vegetable or herb garden on the property where you live, chances are you have chives, popping up faithfully every spring in clumps of hollow grass-like shoots followed by purple buds and eventually fuzzy blooms.

One of several clumps of chives growing in my herb garden.

Don’t overlook these ubiquitous perennial herbs as a way to add some fresh onion-garlic flavour to just about any dish.
Need an example? Here’s three ways I used chives just last weekend.

Sauté mushroom in a little butter in a non-stick pan. Beat eggs with sour cream, 5 mL (1 tsp) or so per egg, salt, pepper and lots of chopped chives. Add egg mixture to pan. Cook over medium-low heat until eggs are nearly set, stirring gently at the beginning to speed things up. Add shredded havarti. When cheese is melted and eggs are set, flip one half of omelette over the other and serve.

Barbecue baked potatoes
Poke baking potato several times with a knife. Microwave on high for about 8 minutes, until soft, flipping once. Wrap in foil. Toss in the coals while you’re grilling your meat. Serve with sour cream and chopped chives.

Asian-style chicken thighs
To your favourite barbecue sauce (store-bought or homemade), add fish sauce, sriracha (rooster) hot sauce and a little sesame oil. Taste for heat and seasonings and adjust as necessary. Marinate bone-in skinless chicken thighs in sauce at least four hours. Grill or bake. Serve sprinkled with chopped chives.

When you trim chives, they will produce a second growth (and maybe even a third depending on the weather and your consumption) during the same season. Which means you can be picking and eating them in May (in an asparagus tart – recipe to come), August (along with lots of fresh dill for a new potato salad) and October (as a garnish for your roasted squash soup).

Asparagus, Take 1

I had the best intentions of writing a series of posts on asparagus this spring — well in time to make the most of the season. But here we are several weeks (and many meals) into the local season without a mention of this favourite green vegetable.
Time to rectify that.

I planted my 19 (I ordered 18, but received one extra) crowns in deep trenches on April 25. I feared for a couple that I found overturned, roots exposed, by some sort of animal (neighbour’s dog, perhaps?) a few days later. But I tucked them back into the soil and today, they are all sporting one or two leggy spears. To encourage robust plants, asparagus should not be harvested the first year it is planted (and only sparingly the second year), so I cannot yet report on the taste. But I was thrilled to see the purple-green shoots poking through the soil at the east end of the garden.

Roasted asparagus.

Roasted Asparagus
Our favourite, simple yet delicious, way to eat fresh asparagus. This feeds two at our house — but it entirely depends on what else you are serving and how much you like asparagus.

1 bunch of asparagus
15 mL (1 tbsp) olive oil
sea salt
fresh ground pepper
juice of half a lemon
zest of half a lemon (optional)

Preheat oven – 350 to 400 F works. (I adjust depending on what else I may have in the oven for dinner.)
Wash and trim asparagus. Snap off the woody ends and save for soup. (Recipe to come.)
Toss with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and lemon zest if using.
Place in single layer on baking sheet.
Roast for 8 to 10 minutes until spears are bright green and still slightly firm.
Spritz with lemon juice. Serve.

1. Skip the lemon and salt. Add soy sauce to taste with the olive oil.
2. Skip the lemon and salt. Substitute melted butter for olive oil. Add soy sauce.
3. Add a couple cloves of finely minced garlic to the olive oil.
4. A couple minutes before the asparagus is done, sprinkle with finely grated Parmesan cheese. Return to oven for two minutes.

Tasty noxious weed

The Mount Albert Horticultural Society has named garlic mustard its weed of the year — and is encouraging all local residents to rid their properties of this invasive species (brought over to Canada by early European settlers). It has bright green, scalloped-edged leaves and clusters of tiny white flowers. It’s blooming now. It spreads by seed and can easily choke out native spring flowers such as spring beauty, wild ginger, bloodroot, Dutchman’s breeches, hepatica, toothwort and trillium and upset the balance of local ecosystems.

Garlic mustard plant.

Saturday, David cleared a patch from the no-man’s land behind our property — but not before we’d harvested a handful of leaves. Garlic mustard is so named for its taste. A chiffonade of the subtly garlicky mustardy leaves was a perfect final touch for a salad of spring greens dressed with a light Dijon vinaigrette.

Chiffonade of garlic mustard leaves for a spring salad.

Garden report, Part 2: Fruit

Fruit, photographed over the past week or so.

Apple tree, five-in-one, one branch nearly blossoming.

Canada red rhubarb, planted last year.

Wild plum blossoms. Few this year. Affected by weather?

Clapp pear, leaves nearly out.

Heritage raspberry, one of five plants, three varietals, planted last year.

Currants, one of five, red and black, nearly blossoming.