Today was the first spring-feeling day since Tim and I (Kelly) moved to EverGood Farm as interns. It was sunny, warm, and beautiful; with the only hint of snow lingering in little piles in the shadows of the greenhouse. With spring weather, comes a lot of excitement. Life outdoors starts to wake up, bloom, and buzz. As I uncovered the rhubarb from its winter nap in the straw, so much activity was unveiled. Worms slurped back into their holes, centipedes and millipedes scurried for cover, and the slug just sat there.
I might be alone in thinking all this creepy crawly action is beautiful but I know that everyone would appreciate the crinkled green leaves on rosy pink stems poking through the soil. It’s a sure sign that summer is near! Rhubarb was always the first thing we harvested out of my parents’ garden. And, as far as I know, no one even particularly likes it, but when it’s ready to harvest, we are excited to eat it!
My family has plenty of traditional recipes for rhubarb- all strategies to use up this tart, very prolific stem. Something magical happens when you combine it with strawberries for jam. My grandpa makes a famous rhubarb pudding that is excellent on top of vanilla ice cream. And no one can deny a piece of rhubarb tart with its irresistible crumbly top. Some of my first memories in the garden are of my dad picking stems of rhubarb, cutting them with his garden knife into manageable length sticks, and giving my sister and me a small bowl of sugar to dip them in, or just eating them raw like stringy candy.
As I uncovered these up-and-coming rhubarb plants, I got warm and fuzzy feelings thinking about these memories. That is just one of the reasons why I absolutely love growing food. It is not just a quick-fix, take-it-off-the-shelf, just-add-water experience. You are a witness and nurturer to a plant’s (or animal’s) whole life process; you become a part of it as you anticipate the day you get to harvest it and it becomes a part of you. The experience can’t help but produce feelings of joy, wonder, pride, and generosity. And those memories of harvest are what inspire a next year’s garden. The whole process is the best motivator for eating lots of good wholesome food, having family dinners, and sharing food and recipes. It is crazy how such a tart and stringy vegetable, that no one really even particularly likes, can inspire you to cook something from scratch, explore the outdoors, spend time with your family, and maybe even start a garden. So when you see rhubarb in your CSA box/garden, eat it with joy, because more sunshine and memories are coming your way.