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The town of Vully near Lac Morat has been the epicenter of Swiss rhubarb cultivation since the 1940s. There’s something in the soil, something in the climate, that makes this vegetable thrive. That’s right, we said vegetable! Rhubarb is the only vegetable that’s treated like a fruit, used in compotes and pies, jams and crumbles. Highly acidic, it marries well with a healthy dose of sugar and figs, apples or pears, but most commonly, with strawberries, whose season overlaps with rhubarb time. From April through mid-June, look for stalks that are firm, not wilted, in markets, supermarkets, and farms. The leaves aren’t eaten, as they’re full of oxalic acid, and thus toxic to human beings.
Anne has talked to Alexandre Javet, the Rhubarb King of Vully and has made her own kitchen foray, producing a gorgeous lattice-topped strawberry-rhubarb pie, of which she is inordinately proud.
Plus: Anne’s guest this week is Japanese food maven and blogger Makiko Itoh, whose twin blogs, Just Hungry and Just Bento, are packed with great tips, great stories, and great tips about where to suss out hard-to-find Japanese pantry staples, such as yuzu, this week’s Weird Ingredient.
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Dear Anne, Thanks for the informative show about rhubarb…I enjoyed listening to your comments. I have a few additions for you concerning rhubarb, which I have also just written about in our blog. Rhubarb was well known in the Zürich area early in the 1900’s. I often refer to an old Zürich cookbook originally written in the 1920’s which has quite a lot of rhubarb recipes. Interestingly, rhubarb was not just a sweet sensation, as there are recipes mixing rhubarb with polenta and swiss chard. Other comments about rhubarb… not the only vegetable treated as fruit: tomatoes and bell peppers also spring to mind. As for your rhubarb recipe, and the issue with potato starch. Potato starch works well, but does not hold it’s binding as long as corn starch or flour. Old recipes often used crackers (zwieback). As for peeling rhubarb…this is not totally necessary. Older plants will dry out and turn rather stringy, but fresh plants do not have this problem. If purchasing at Migros or Coop, then go ahead and peel…if freshly harvested, then no need. Finally, sugar doesn’t neutralize the high acid of rhubarb…it is the fat and spices which neutralize the acid. I wrote about that in our recent posting, which you can find here: http://freshattitude.laughinglemon.ch/post/2009/05/How-I-Make-Rhubarb-Pie.aspx
Hope this is helpful, and I will look forward to listening to your program on a regular basis… Jack