We know it's July when the produce starts piling up, and this week the rhubarb has really come into its own. Our apartment doesn't offer anywhere to plant a garden, but we have been so blessed by generous friends and family with large rhubarb patches: our freezer is filling quickly! I spent a recent evening chopping up another two gallons, which came from one of my father's friends from church.
Last winter it was disappointing to open the freezer and not have any home-grown produce; it is reassuring to already see fruits and vegetables starting to build up to get us through the coming winter!
Rhubarb is technically considered a vegetable, although it is generally cooked as a fruit. Because of this, a New York court officially ruled rhubarb to be a fruit in 1947. It grows well in Alaska's temperate, sunny summers, and is harvested from June through the first frost, usually in September. If you can get past the tartness, rhubarb is very healthful: Just 3.5 oz of rhubarb provide 28% of your daily vitamin K, 10% of your vitamin C, 9% of your calcium, and 6% of your potassium. The leaves are poisonous, though, so be careful to remove them and wash your hands before working with the stalks.
Many Americans seem to know rhubarb primarily through pies--it was commonly known as "pie plant" throughout much of the country during the 19th century. When I was growing up, it seemed like rhubarb made its way into everything in my mother's kitchen: from rhubarb cookies, to blueberry-rhubarb jam, to rhubarb upside-down cake with warm milk, rhubarb was synonymous with dessert, and can likely take much of the credit for my continued love of sweet-but-tart foods.