Salted or sugared, baked or raw, rhubarb is making a big comeback. Its roots, however, extend to the first century B.C., when it was used medicinally.  Could that bite of rhubarb pie help what ails you?

Its earliest use was in an antidote for poisoning.  Through the centuries, however, it has also been used to treat everything from colds, liver, kidney, and spleen ailments, to cramps, convulsions, wounds, and bruises.  In the Middle Ages, it was popular as a laxative.  It’s also been prescribed for dropsy, dysentery, rickets, and thrush.

It wasn’t until the 1800s that eating rhubarb for enjoyment became popular, and only then because of the drop in sugar prices (sweetening makes it more edible).  Since then, it’s been used in tarts, pies, jellies, jams, marmalade, compotes, cakes and breads.  British desserts such as fools and crumbles were made out of the stewed fruit, as was the tartine, a baked rhubarb placed between toasted bread.

Drying rhubarb made it available year-round because it dries and reconstitutes easily.  Bottling it was even better.  The rhubarb would be boiled down until thick, dried in the oven and then bottled.  Some say it makes a better pie than fresh rhubarb.

It’s also one of the healthier foods you can eat because it is rich in calcium, potassium and vitamin C, not to mention it’s nonfattening and contains fiber.

If you’ve never cooked with rhubarb, you’ll enjoy these easy recipes.  Rhubarb and raspberries make a nice twist in jelly.  And the Rhubarb Custard Cake always goes over well—be prepared for recipe requests on this one.


Rhubarb Custard Cake
4 cups chopped rhubarb
1 ¾ cups sugar
1 yellow cake mix
1 pt. whipping cream
Mix rhubarb with sugar and set aside.  Prepare cake mix according to directions.  Pour into a 9×13-inch pan.  Sprinkle rhubarb mixture over cake batter.  Pour whipping cream on top.  Bake at 350 for one hour.

Rhubarb Confetti Pie
1 ½ cup rhubarb, diced
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 unbaked pie shell
Dice the rhubarb.  Beat eggs.  Combine all ingredients (except pie shell).  Pour into pie shell.  Bake at 450 for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 and bake an additional 30 minutes or until done.  Cool.

Rhubarb-Raspberry Jelly
5 cups rhubarb, chopped fine
4 cups sugar
1 pkg. frozen raspberries (small pkg for thicker jelly)
1 (3 oz) pkg. raspberry gelatin
Mix rhubarb with sugar and let stand overnight.  Mix in raspberries.  Cook 8-10 minutes or until rhubarb is tender.  Remove from heat.  Stir in gelatin.  Keep refrigerated.

Rhubarb Bars
2 Tablespooons cornstarch
¼ cup water
3 ½ cups rhubarb, diced
1 ½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups oatmeal
1 ½ cups flour
½ teaspoon soda
1 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup chopped nuts
Dissolve cornstarch in water.  Mix rhubarb, sugar, vanilla and cornstarch/water mixture together and cook until thick.  Mix the remaining ingredients together until crumbly.  Pat three-fourths of mixture in a 9×13-inch pan.  Pour rhubarb mixture over base and sprinkle remaining crumbs on top.  Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.

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