I’ve been thinking of looking for rhubarb for a while now. Fortunately, rhubarb found me. I ran into it at the Carmel market this past Friday, for the first time. Rhubarb isn’t that well-known here — it’s grown locally, but this is only the second time I’ve seen it being sold in Israel. In the time it took me to buy a bunch (for 15 shekels), at least three people came and asked what this weird vegetable was, and then spent some time looking quizzically at it before moving on.
Indeed, it’s kind of a hard sell to people who don’t know what it is. Unlike something like, say, apricots, which you can neatly split in half and give to people to taste, rhubarb needs to be cooked. Not only that, how do you explain that this vegetable that most resembles celery is actually baked into desserts? It might be a while before rhubarb really takes hold here. (Photos after the jump)
UPDATE: I asked the seller if anyone was buying the rhubarb, and he said yes, young people know what it is — he said he sold 30 bunches on Friday. Now, if you ask me, that’s not a lot, but if it’s enough to keep farmers growing rhubarb, then great.
Look at that weird mix: Rhubarb amid the olive oil, baladi garlic, hot peppers, Jerusalem artichoke and fresh green almonds.
Anyway, my encounter with rhubarb happened to come on the first week that there were no strawberries — whatsoever — available for sale. Oh well. But speaking of apricots, the season is now in full swing, so I decided to use them as a tangy substitute partner for this fresh bunch of rhubarb.
I’d originally intended to make a pie, but I decided to keep it simple and make jam instead, without all those pie spices that often accompany rhubarb. The result is tart and tangy, since both rhubarb and apricot are, well, tart and tangy.
For a 300-gram jar of jam:
300 grams rhubarb (2-3 stalks)
200 grams apricots without pits (about 4 fruits)
3/4 cup water
3/8 cup sugar
Break the apricots in half to remove the pits, and dice the rhubarb into short segments (remove and discard any leaves — they’re poisonous). Put the fruit into a thick-bottomed saucepan with the water, cover and bring to a boil. Let simmer until the rhubarb and apricots begin to get soft.
Once the fruit is falling apart, remove the lid, add the sugar and let the jam boil down to the desired consistency, checking and stirring to make sure it doesn’t burn. Total cooking time should be about 20 minutes.