by Miche Genest
Rhubarb flourishes in the alleys of downtown Whitehorse; big, healthy plants with spreading leaves and thick green and red stalks. It springs up along fences and behind garages and belongs to no one and everyone. All summer long I roam the laneways of my neighbourhood, knife in hand, returning to gather again and again. At home I wash the foraged harvest extra well (dogs, dust), dry the stalks thoroughly, chop them into half-inch pieces, and freeze them in 1-L portions.
Sometimes I go overboard, and then there’s way more rhubarb than anything else in the freezer. The bags slither and slip and obscure what’s underneath them, they fall out on the floor when I open the freezer door. This becomes annoying, and so I make rhubarb syrup.
I love rhubarb syrup; it’s tart and sour and refreshing, great in cocktails and mocktails or simply stirred into a glass of sparkling water. In our house we pretty much always have a jar at the ready in the fridge door. Each batch of syrup uses up one litre of fruit, so it’s an ideal solution for the rhubarb-overwhelmed.
If I get a bit rhubarb crazy, I’ve got nothing on Suzanne. During her year of eating locally, raw rhubarb juice stood in for the vinegars and lemons that were no longer allowed in her kitchen; she used rhubarb juice in salad dressings, in hollandaise and bearnaise sauces, in pie crusts and even in sweet pickles. Her harvest in the summer of 2017 was driven by fear, the fear of running out. She gathered rhubarb so ferociously that she ended up with 200 pounds. When the year ended and she inventoried her remaining stock, there were still had 95 pounds of frozen, chopped rhubarb distributed amongst her several freezers. That’s a lot of rhubarb.
Clearly, she needs to make some rhubarb syrup.
Rhubarb pulp left over from making syrup is a fabulous addition to granola and yogurt for breakfast.