Fruit or veg? Crisp or chutney? Rhubarb Does Double Duty

Technically, I said I was going to write about fruit as well as vegetables when I started this blog. So I could give myself permission to write about rhubarb—if it were a fruit. Which it’s not. (Technically it’s a vegetable).

And technically I could have given you a crisp recipe, but I usually use Karen Barker’s great Rhubarb Brown Sugar Crumble recipe over on the Fine Cooking website. So instead I’m offering up my favorite savory concoction, Rhubarb-Dried Cherry Chutney.  (It’s quick and easy to make and would be really great if you’re grilling pork tenderloin or even chicken this weekend).

And technically (sorry, but I’m lacking in a diverse vocabulary today) I should have blogged about rhubarb when it first poked out of the ground here in late April. But I didn’t. Time slips, you know. Or skids. Or something.

Fortunately, judging by the picture I took at our farmers’ market last year (stalks, above right), rhubarb is still thriving in June.

I took the other photos in April a couple years ago when I first got to the Island. (Not technically, but actually.) I was so fascinated by these bushy plants, which I sometimes found growing near old farmhouses, that I often stuck my camera down beneath their leafy canopies to capture the luminous underworld below, a forest of pink and pale green stalks writhing in dappled sunlight. The flowers (not edible) were a surprise to me, too.

If I had ever snatched any of this farmhouse rhubarb (which I didn’t), I would’ve been sure to trim all the leaves away before cooking. It annoys me to no end when I see rhubarb stalks for sale with the (toxic) leaves still attached. Do not eat the leaves. Period.  And know that the stalks themselves are quite tart. Delicious, but tart. They must be cooked with something sweet, and preferably lots of it.

Sure, sweet strawberries are the classic partner for rhubarb. But in reality, rhubarb appears on the scene so many weeks ahead of fresh (local) strawberries, that it’s nice to have a recipe or two on hand that showcases rhubarb alone. A crisp maybe, or a chutney.

Rhubarb & Dried-Cherry Chutney


1 cup medium-diced fresh rhubarb

½ cup small-diced onion

1⁄4 cup coarsely chopped dried cherries

1⁄4 cup granulated sugar

1⁄4 cup sherry vinegar

1 Tbs. honey

1⁄2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest

1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt


Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, cover, and simmer over medium to medium-low heat until the onions are mostly translucent and the juices are beginning to thicken, about 5 minutes. Uncover and simmer, stirring frequently with a heatproof spatula, until very thick, another 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan before storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Yields about 1 cup.

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