Seems basic, I know.
But until last summer, my rhubarb experience was limited to only store-bought jam. I’d never cooked with it. So when our farm promised rhubarb in a weekly CSA box, I was excited.
“Rhubarb” in hand, I looked it up in the Food Lover’s Companion, my go-to guide for vegetables unknown to me. Don’t eat the leaves — they’re poisonous, it said. It’s all leaves, I thought, but … OK. After I trimmed the leaves, I was left with the tiniest red stalks, hardly enough for the recipe of rhubarb crisp I’d found. Still, they went into the pot with a lot of sugar. (Thank God.)
The finished product, with its oatmeal, cinnamon and brown sugar topping, was so pretty that I took it to my newish in-laws’ house. I’ll admit it, I was damn proud.
Until a couple of weeks later, when I was wandering through the farmer’s market and saw some “rhubarb” at a stand. Only the sign above it read “Swiss chard.”
Just so you don’t make the same mistake I did, this is Swiss chard. (Which, as it turns out, will work in a “rhubarb” crisp in a pinch — if the recipe calls for enough sugar.)