Think Spring: Rhubarb and strawberries

February 29, 2008 2:38:52 PM PST
Tony Stallone, Peapod's "Produce Guru," has been in training for more than 40 years!

He is so passionate about produce that he claims his lettuce talks to him. Tony started going to the produce market with his father at the ripe old age of five, repacking tomatoes and learning the tricks of the trade. He appears monthly on ABC 7 News Sunday morning.

Is everyone as tired of Winter as I am? Let's think Spring!!!!!!!! Spring! Spring! Spring! When I think of spring I think I think of fresh meadows of new grass, daisies, wild flowers, strawberries, fresh mint and fresh grown Rhubarb. We are going to talk about the later three today to get us out of the winter doldrums.

Rhubarb is it a fruit? Is it a vegetable? Or is it just a weed? It is most definitely a vegetable, but most often used as a fruit in pie fillings. I am here today to espouse the virtues of this sometimes misunderstood and often neglected vegetable. Rhubarb is a very ancient vegetable with its heritage dating back thousands of years to China, where it was used mostly for its medicinal purposes (it has purgative abilities as well as some claims of curing fevers and general malaise).

An absolute favorite of mine is Rhubarb crunch and Strawberry Rhubarb pie. I have included a couple of family recipes that are easy and delicious. Since Rhubarb is extremely tart on it's own you need to sweeten it with sugar, honey or in the case of Strawberry Rhubarb pie you can use fresh strawberries (see attached recipes). A couple of quick tips is to always look for the dark ruby color rhubarb (it will have more flavor), also the leaves of the rhubarb are poisonous so if it comes with leaves remove and discard. It is best to store rhubarb in a plastic bag in the coldest part of your refrigerator where it will keep up to a week. Did I say strawberries? Yes, fresh strawberries in March! We are seeing the best, the biggest, the juiciest and the most delicious strawberries of the year. I want to alert all of our viewers to the great quality of strawberries at this time of the year.

Rhubarb is also making a comeback on the eclectic culinary scene, today's Rhubarb is not only for pies, it also makes a great sauce that can accompany meat, poultry or fish. Since the Easter holiday is early this year, I have included a simple recipe to serve alongside your Holiday Lamb. The rhubarbs tartness marries well with fatty meats like lamb. You can make a Rhubarb Mint Chutney that is perfect with lamb! Mint also makes me think of spring as it is one of the first herbs to sprout up during spring and is the perfect accompaniment with lamb (see attached recipe) or chop it up and serve with some fresh berries. Mint is a great herb and is also called the herb of hospitality, so be sure to serve plenty of mint this spring.