Strawberry-Rhubarb Fields Forever

For my first job out of college, I worked as a receptionist. Wow, I’ve come a long way since then. Oh, wait….hmmmm.

Okay, moving on.

Anyway, one of the my responsibilities was to water the plants on Friday afternoons. This proved to be most difficult for my fancy degree holding self. I could get the CFO a refund on his non-refundable plane ticket. I could deal with some real jerks over the phone. I mastered the ever elusive book binding machine AND unjammed the copier in a single bound, but for the life of me, I could NOT remember to water the freakin’ plants! No amount of sticky notes, to do lists or MS Outlook reminders were going to stand in the way of me forgetting water the damn plants.

You can guess what happened next – yup, the plants withered and died (much to my embarrassment and horror of others in the office – apparently one of them was some expensive tree thing? I’m not sure…) and I realized a green thumb was something I clearly didn’t have. I actually avoided any and all plants for quite sometime after that. Then we bought our house and everyone else in the neighborhood had such nice flowers on their porches in the summer. I was weed green with envy. I wanted pretty flowers too!

The first summer I tried, I kept them alive through like mid-July – then I’m not sure what happened. Maybe I went out of town for a while and left them neglected for too long. Dying plants seem to just sneak up on you. One day, they seem okay and then by the next morning…not so much.  Last year I tried again and did much better, but I wasn’t working so I did better at remembering to take care of them. I didn’t do as good with my herbs though…I think I had them in a spot that was too warm. This year, I’m going for the gold medal in gardening. I solemnly swear to keep my all my flowers and herbs alive and well for the entire season. Scouts honor. I’ll expect some kind of merit badge in recognition after all this. Thanks.

Now, lucky for me, I get a head start when it comes to some of the greenery in our yard. I’m talking about the stuff that does it’s own thing. I don’t water it, or prune it, or cover it up, or bring it in for the winter. I do absolutely nothing – I full on neglect the things – and they keep coming back. Ah, the lazy homeowner’s dream come true!

There’s my lovely lilac bush on the far western edge of our backyard:

It blooms fresh and fragrant and purple year after year with absolutely no help from me!

Then there’s these little guys:

Okay, not technically a plant. A weed. I can’t get rid of these guys even when I try so I have just decided to embrace them – Hooray for the humble dandelion! And being the kind and considerate neighbor I am, I like to share my weed wealth with everyone. Get one windy day and watch those little spores scatter. Another day or so and look they are in your yard too! Weeds for everyone! No need to thank me. Really, it was nothing. 🙂

And finally, the previous owners planted:

RHUBARB!

Actually, I didn’t even realize this was rhubarb for a while after we moved in. See, our house is on nearly an acre of land and the rhubarb patch is way out on the outskirts of the yard and, frankly, I just didn’t see much of reason to venture out that far. One of our friends pointed it out to me. I had one of those REALLY? moments that I tried to hide. Of course, I knew that I had rhubarb in my yard – this is my house after all! Duh. Now I make it point to use at least some of it each spring.

This is one resilient plant! It makes me smile that I can do absolutely nothing to cultivate the rhubarb patch and it comes back year after year yielding a delicious tart bounty that I can use to make up something totally yummy. It’s only good until about the first of July, then it starts to dry out. It’s definitely a spring/early summer treat. In fact, I think (don’t quote me, I actually have no idea what I’m talking about) when it starts to flower like in the photo above, it’s nearing the end of it’s yumminess. The stalks that are ripe and ready for picking are bright red and about a half inch to an inch across. They give very easily from the ground when picked and appear moist. The stalks that are flowering are much thicker, brittle and don’t want to give way from the ground – and thus not good eats.

Not all my stalks are flowering so I still have a little bit of time left to use it. 🙂 I think rhubarb is a bit of an aquired taste. Personally, I love it. The tartness just lends itself so well to both sweet and savory dishes. The combo of strawberry and rhubarb is a classic and by far my fave. Sweet, juicy summer strawberries and crisp, tart rhubarb – yeah, you really can’t go wrong. Now what to make with this delicious pair? Pie is played, jam and jelly is too much work – something that went together quickly but still tasted great….

Enter the Strawberry Rhubarb Streusel Muffin! A delightful sweet, spicy breakfast treat. I basically just took my blueberry muffin recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook and tweaked it a tiny bit. I uped the sugar a bit to compensate for the tartness of the rhubarb and added closer to a cup of fruit rather than 3/4 of a cup to make them extra juicy and delicious. I love this muffin recipe – they are incredibly light and fluffy. So tender and moist. You could really put anything you want in them and they will be perfect every time. Gotta love a versatile recipe! 🙂

STRAWBERRY RHUBARB STREUSEL MUFFINS (Recipe adapted from: Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped rhubarb, cut into quarter inch chunks
  • 1 tbs. powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh strawberries
  • 1 recipe Streusel Topping (below)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Grease twelve 2.5 in muffin cups or line with paper baking cups; set aside
  2. In a small bowl, toss together chopped rhubarb and powdered sugar; set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl dry ingredients. Make a well in center of flour mixture, set aside.
  4. In another bowl combine egg, milk and oil. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir until just moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in rhubarb and strawberries.
  5. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, fill each two-thirds full. Sprinkle strusel topping over the tops. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in centers comes clean. Cool for 5 minutes. Remove and serve warm.

Streusel Topping:

Combine 3 tbs. all-purpose flour, 3 tbs. brown sugar, and 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon and 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg. Cut in 2 tbs. butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

ENJOY! 🙂

PS….just for fun, a couple more pics from my yard:

A robin’s egg and clover! 🙂

This is the view from beyond my rhubarb patch. Look closely, City Slickers, this is what country living looks like. Ooooo. Rural-ness. 😉 ::cue dueling banjos…NOW!::

Okay, that’s deceiving…we actually live in town but we’re on the far south edge and there’s not much past us. I’m a suburban girl so this is a bit different for me. I’ve pretty much only seen my neighbors out my windows my entire life. Really, the only backyard view I’m used to is that of the old lady that lived behind us shaving her husband’s neck hair on their patio. True story.

And, finally, me with a couple of rhubarb stalks. Eric insisted on taking my picture with them. Oh yeah, don’t eat rhubarb leaves – highly toxic. And ignore my yoga pant/t-shirt combo…dressing up to bake is not something I usually do. Please and thank you. 🙂

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4 Comments

Filed under fruit, muffins

4 responses to “Strawberry-Rhubarb Fields Forever

  1. brannyboilsover

    Funny post! Ode to the humble dandelion. Enjoy the fruits of your “labor.”

  2. hey erin! love the story about the rhubarb. don’t beat yourself up too much…i’m not sure that i’ve ever seen an actual rhubarb plant myself…so i don’t think i could have id it either. must say i’m a bit jealous…would love to have a patch of that myself. the muffins looked fantastic but my fav is strawberry rhubarb pie!

    is that a le creuset pot on your fridge??? okay now i’m as green as the pot with envy!

    i must say you are coming right along with the rural life/domisticated house wife thing.

    happy tuesday to you!
    Amber

    {ps. what kind of camera are you using?}

  3. Pingback: Hypothetically Speaking… « Milk & Honey

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