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ERIN SULLEY: Give rhubarb a second chance

Summer iced rhubarb tea is the perfect summer drink for the entire family. Don’t knock it without trying it! PAUL PICKETT PHOTO
Summer iced rhubarb tea is the perfect summer drink for the entire family. Don’t knock it without trying it! PAUL PICKETT PHOTO - SaltWire Network

I don’t really like rhubarb. That is, until I found the right recipe.

When we first moved into our house, more than 10 years ago, there was a rhubarb patch in the backyard. It was growing like a weed after every passing year — we never used it.

After a while, I decided to rip it up and turn it into a flowerbed. Well, I can’t totally blame it on the sole fact of disliking rhubarb. I, also, blame it on my dogs who loved it for another reason. I’ll spare you the details as we are talking about food.

Over the years, I have grown to like rhubarb in certain recipes.

Mostly if it’s accompanied with other things like strawberry and rhubarb pie. Even then, I can only muster a slice or two. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my Grandma’s deadly rhubarb relish. Yum!

Fun fact: did you know rhubarb was a vegetable? I would think most people consider it a fruit given its mostly used as a fruit in desserts and jams. However, it’s a perennial vegetable that has a very rich, tart flavour.

My co-worker, Brenda, was kind enough to give me a bag of her homegrown rhubarb this week, so I thought I would give it another try. Boy, am I ever glad I did.

“Happiness is trying a new recipe.” - Unknown

Like any other vegetable you cook with, make sure you clean it (and your hands). ERIN SULLEY PHOTO
Like any other vegetable you cook with, make sure you clean it (and your hands). ERIN SULLEY PHOTO

I spent some time searching for a different recipe. I mean sure, you can make rhubarb pie, rhubarb tarts, rhubarb oatmeal bars, rhubarb crumble, rhubarb pudding and the list goes on and on. Nothing really grabbed my attention, until I saw a recipe for summer iced rhubarb tea.

It’s the most refreshing, thirst quenching and tasty drink I have ever made. What’s even better is that it is super easy. I mean you can’t mess up this recipe.

I knew I wanted to make extra so I could share with my co-workers, so I doubled up on the recipe. All you need is 16 stalks of rhubarb, water, honey (or sugar) and fresh mint.

This picture should give you a good idea of the size to cut your rhubarb into before simmering. ERIN SULLEY PHOTO
This picture should give you a good idea of the size to cut your rhubarb into before simmering. ERIN SULLEY PHOTO

Boil the water. While you wait, cut your rhubarb stalks into two- or three-inch pieces. Once the water is boiled, put the rhubarb in, decrease the heat to a low setting and let it simmer for about an hour.

When the hour is up, strain your rhubarb as you only want the liquid, not the leftover rhubarb pulp. When choosing a strainer, a fine mesh strainer works best. If you don’t have one, don’t fret. Option No. 2: use a coffee filter. I find it’s best to wet the coffee filter first and then strain. Be careful though, make sure you place it in a colander or fit it over a jar so you don’t burn yourself or lose hold of the filter.

Once all the liquid is strained, discard the remainder of the rhubarb and add your sweetener of choice. I choose to use a half cup of honey. But, you can use whatever you prefer, whether its honey, sugar, sweetener – totally up to you. After adding it, give it a taste. If you find it still has a bitter taste, add more.

Mesh strainers are worth the investment for recipes like this one. Remember, a coffee filter is a good backup plan. – ERIN SULLEY PHOTO
Mesh strainers are worth the investment for recipes like this one. Remember, a coffee filter is a good backup plan. – ERIN SULLEY PHOTO

"You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.” – Julia Child

Last, but certainly not least— mint. What makes this an extra special summer drink is that I got to pick fresh mint from my garden to use as a flavouring and a garnish. Simply delicious and refreshing!

As for the ice, I like to add it as you pour a glass rather than the full jug, especially if you’re not drinking it right away. I find it waters down the flavour.

Oh, and for the adults, full disclosure, this is amazing with the addition of a little gin.

“Cause a little bit of summer is what the whole year is about.” – John Mayes

Don’t have fresh mint? Here’s your second option: use dried mint in a tea infuser. ERIN SULLEY PHOTO
Don’t have fresh mint? Here’s your second option: use dried mint in a tea infuser. ERIN SULLEY PHOTO

There you have it, summer iced rhubarb tea. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. It’s certainly fit to eat. You may have to rethink giving away your rhubarb because you can easily freeze it and take it out whenever you get a craving. Some food for thought!

Erin Sulley is a self-confessed foodie who lives in Mount Pearl. Email erinmsulley@gmail.com Twitter: @ErinSulley Instagram: @erinsulley

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