Rhubarb has been cultivated in China for thousands of years and was used medicinally, particularly to treat constipation. In fact one of its ancient names was ‘army general’, meaning that it was fast acting and reliable. Traditionally it was also used as an antiseptic, mild painkiller, and treatment for shingles and toothache.
Rhubarb, still used primarily as a medicinal root, was brought to India, Turkey, and Russia, and was an expensive item traded on the Silk Road. Eventually, seeds of the plant were brought by Chinese traders to Britain in the 1700s. By the end of that century, rhubarb was stocked in apothecaries throughout Britain.
After sugar became available in England, rhubarb was then used as a food item, and although it is technically a vegetable, it was primarily sweetened and used as a fruit. Rhubarb is normally one of the first plants of the season to be harvested. In the United Kingdom, where rhubarb remains popular, the first harvest is performed by candlelight in darkened sheds, which is thought to produce the tenderest stems.
This is basically a recipe for Rhubarb Crumble, with a tart, rhubarb base, topped with buttery and oaty streusel. It is super easy too, just simmer the rhubarb with sugar, top, and bake. Pop it in the oven when you start your dinner, and by the time you're finished, you'll have a lovely, warm, seasonal dessert.
About 10 sticks of rhubarb, chopped
50 g sugar
a shot of water or spirit (optional)
60 g rolled oats
60 g flour
20 g sugar
pinch of salt
60 g cold butter
Preheat your oven to 200 C / 400 F / gas mark 6.
Put the rhubarb, sugar, and shot of water or booze in a medium sized pot. Simmer this on low for about 10-15 minutes, or until the rhubarb is broken down.
Meanwhile, mix together the rolled oats, flour, sugar, and salt. Then rub the butter into the mixture until you get large flakes.
Pour the rhubarb into a baking dish that can hold about 1 L, then cover with the oaty, streusel topping.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until you can see the rhubarb bubbling up around the edges and the topping is golden brown.
Serve warm with ice cream or custard.
- I like a very tart crumble—taste the rhubarb after it has been simmered and see if it is sweet enough for you. If you prefer something sweeter, add a tablespoon more sugar.