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Rhubarb and Poetry

Rhubarb and Poetry

Rhubarb stalk, Alaska, circa 1920, Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Rhubarb stalk, Alaska, circa 1920, Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Rhubarb, which some call the Pie Plant because people most often used it for pie filling, is indigenous to China where herbalist used it for its purgative qualities. Venetian traders introduced it to Southern Europe where rhubarb first appeared in an Italian garden in 1608. From there it spread to the rest of Europe. Rhubarb’s first reference as food, as tart and pie filling, dates back to 1778. It crosses the Atlantic with British colonist and becomes popular in New England gardens around the 1790s. Thereafter rhubarb cultivation moved south with northern migrants to the upper south where one found favorable growing conditions during the winter and spring moths. When I walked into my grandmother’s front door as a child, the delicious smell of baking pies just slapped you in the face. Grandma Opie did not consider it overindulgent for her grandson to have two slices of rhubarb pie with ice cream. Here is a poem and some recipes in memory of my grandmother. 

Rhubarb Pie

If rhubarb pie

You've never eaten

Give it a try

It can't be beaten

I know what you're thinking

Oh how can this be

Rhubarb's reminiscent

Of red celery

How can something

This stringy

Become a great pie

There's a sweet little secret

Of that I won't lie

It takes lots of sugar

A half plus a cup

And a third cup of flour

To thicken things up

An eighth teaspoon of salt

And the Rhubarb you add

Four cups peeled and chopped

Won't turn out too bad

Mix it all up

And pour in a pie pan

Lined with a crust

You mixed up by hand

Dot it with butter

Or margarine is ok

Two tablespoons should do

At least that's what they say

Put on a top crust

Flute the edges up high

And cut in some vents

So the top doesn't fly

Sprinkle with sugar

And put in to bake

At 425 Three-fourths hour

Should take

When it is done

Place on rack for to cool

Don't eat it too soon

Or you'll get burned you fool

When it's just warm

Then open the fridge

With vanilla ice cream

You'll want more than a smidge

With milk in a glass

Or coffee in cup

You might soon discover

That you've eaten it up

Then go tell your friends

That you've found a new gem

And maybe next time

You'll save some for them!

Anonymous poem by

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