rhubarb [ˈruːbɑːb]

Rhubarb: noun

  • a plant which has long green and red edible stalks, usually eaten sweetened and cooked
  • US and Canadian slang a heated discussion or quarrel
  • the noise made by actors to simulate conversation, esp by repeating the word rhubarb at random (also a verb)

Is it a vegetable or a fruit?

Well, celery stalks are a vegetable, so in my eyes rhubarb is too!

However, Wikipedia writes that in 1947 the US declared rhubarb to be a fruit! As a result it was categorized as a fruit for import purposes – very lucrative for the business, as tariffs were lower for fruits than vegetables! (Someone must have had interests in a rhubarb farm abroad! LOL!)

The garden variety used for cooking is Rheum x hybridum. The leaves are toxic, containing oxalic acid, but the stalks have been used as an ingredient in fruit pies ever since sugar became readily available… without other sweet fruits or added sugar the stalks are so sour that they are barely edible! Sweeter young stalks are now sold in early spring as they are grown in hothouses.

Garden rhubarb can also be “forced” by raising the temperature – usually with an upturned bucket over the new shoots, or with a more sophisticated pot made especially for the purpose. In parts of northern England rhubarb is cultivated outdoors and then in the winter moved into sheds which are heated. The resulting shoots which sprout in the dark are tender, sweeter and paler than normal rhubarb. (See this article on the Rhubarb Triangle)

I’ll be posting a recipe for rhubarb tomorrow, so if you don’t have any in the garden, go and buy some! 😉

I remember watching an ancient film with Eric Sykes in it called “Rhubarb, Rhubarb”. The only word uttered in the whole 30-minute film was “rhubarb”! Five minutes of it is funny, but half an hour gets a bit tedious, even though the cast was excellent (with Jimmy Edwards, Beryl Reid, Roy Kinnear, Charlie Drake…).

Sadly there doesn’t seem to be a YouTube clip of it anywhere…

… There is however another famous rhubarb:


Roobarb is a disagreeable green dog who is full of silly ideas, and his neighbour –  Custard – is a pink cat  who takes great pleasure in laughing at Roobarb’s mishaps! Does anyone remember this cartoon?

Click on the picture of Roobarb to see the cartoon intro!

Terra (and Water) Culture

Water, water, everywhere…

Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day.

(Old English nursery rhyme)

Rain, rain, come back!

(New English nursery rhyme!)

With the hose-pipe ban in the UK my thoughts have recently been focused on water resources and drought. In Bavaria this is not really an issue, since many gardeners have their own well, and underground reservoirs ensure a safe water supply long-term. The reservoir near my hometown in England was, however, fairly low when I visited, and restrictions on watering are now in place in the south and east of the country.

Then I saw a TED Talk the other day which shows, among other things, what has happened to the Aral Sea on the border of Kazakhstan:

“Formerly one of the four largest lakes in the world with an area of 68,000 square kilometres (26,300 sq mi), the Aral Sea has been steadily shrinking since the 1960s after the rivers that fed it were diverted by Soviet irrigation projects.” (Wikipedia)

If you are short of time, just look at the photo on Wikipedia:

And if you have a few minutes, watch the whole TED talk here:

Jonathan Foley: The other inconvenient truth

It looks at the whole issue of land and water in agriculture, and it really gets you thinking…

A few last highlights from an English garden in spring

While in England over Easter I managed to capture a few rays of sunshine in my Mum’s garden. This hellebore has been in a pot all winter, and clearly feels happy there! It is the only one we knew the name of: Pink Frost.

Bluebells, although not the native ones (Hyacinthoides non-scripta). No, these are the dreaded Spanish ones: Hyacinthoides hispanica… Why dreaded? Well, they are invasive and hybridise freely. This is putting the native one at risk.

A viburnum, just beginning to open up its tiny petals. The buds look quite waxy, like a plastic model!

And one final picture of that gorgeous hellebore again! I just couldn’t resist!

That’s it from England until I visit again in the summer. All the kind words about my Mum’s plants have been passed on thank you!

And thanks for stopping by!

Sunshine and Liebster Blog Awards

I’m feeling very happy, yet humble.

There are so many fantastic blogs out there, I have a long way to go!

Still, my dear blogging friends sent me over some special gifts this Easter:

From Elaine at Rainyleaf  I received The Sunshine Award…

Thank you Elaine!

Elaine is a qualified horticulturist, and has an extensive blog full of plant profiles, lovely photos, book reviews and lots of useful tips for the gardening year:

The Rules for the Sunshine Award:
1. Include the Logo in my Post
2. Link back and thank those that nominated me
3. Answer 10 questions about myself and/or tell seven random facts
4. Nominate (up to) 10 other bloggers and link them to the award in their comment section

The Questions:

  1. What is your favourite colour?       Sunrise orange
  2. What is your favourite animal?     Dogs (especially Irish Wolfhounds!)
  3. What is your favourite number?   63 (don’t ask!)
  4. What is your favourite drink?       Coffee
  5. Which do you prefer, facebook or twitter?  ??? (Am not on either)
  6. What is your passion?                  Plants, dogs, books, and FOOD!
  7. Do you prefer giving or receiving presents? I love choosing presents for people.
  8. What is your favourite pattern?    Flowers of course!
  9. What is your favourite day of the week? Saturday!
  10. What is your favourite flower?  This changes with the seasons… currently the Hepatica (or maybe Pulmonaria?)!

Then Robin Jean Marie at Bringingeuropehome gave me the Liebster Blog Award…

Thanks Robin Jean Marie!

Robin has lived in Europe and to remind her of that time she now posts about European traditions, food and so on. It’s such a fun and cheerful site!

Here are the rules for the Liebster Blog Award:

  • Thank your Liebster Blog presenter on your blog.
  • Link back to your awarder’s site.
  • Copy and paste the award onto your blog
  • Nominate 3-5 bloggers for the award.
  • Inform them by leaving a comment on their blog.

I hope nobody minds me nominating just 3 bloggers for each award… with the gardening season beginning I have less time to view many new sites at the moment!

The Sunshine nominees:

Gardenpath (Wildlife and nature close up – fantastic photos!)

My Little Rhode Island Corner (A really lovely garden and nature blog – with recipes too!)

Mountainmae (Observations on life and nature, dotted with delightful poetry!)

The Liebster Blog nominees:

Herbstbaum (A friendly German/English nature blog with lovely pictures!)

CrumpetKitchen (In French and English, a cosy collection of recipes and anecdotes – love it!)

Prairiesummers (Delicious recipes in German and English, with lovely photos too!)

Take a look at these blogs and enjoy an array of talent!

Thanks everyone!


Pasta with Rosemary, Tomato and Aubergine Sauce

Years ago, while visiting friends, I had an aubergine dish with a strong rosemary flavour. It was delicious and inspired this creamy sauce. I feel aubergines and rosemary were meant for each other, so if you have fresh rosemary use it in this dish! (My rosemary is flowering again!) Snip it into tiny pieces with the kitchen scissors, only using the stem if soft and young.

Pasta with Rosemary, Tomato and Aubergine Sauce

  • 1 aubergine (eggplant!)
  • olive oil for frying
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tin tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 tsps sugar
  • 50ml sherry/red wine (optional)
  • 2 tsps dried or fresh rosemary
  • 100ml cream/soya cream (optional)
  • Pasta of your choice

Fry the onion in a little olive oil until soft.

Cut the aubergine into small cubes, place in a covered microwave dish and cook on high for 4 minutes. It may need a little longer, so check if it’s nice and tender.

Add the aubergine to the onion, season with salt and black pepper. Add tomato puree, tomatoes, sugar, sherry and herbs. Simmer gently for a few minutes.

Cook pasta. Now add the cream to the sauce and heat through.

Serve with parmesan/vegan parmesan.