Fresh from the garden: How to grow rhubarb and make a yummy rhubarb apple crumble
Andrea Bellamy |

I’m thrilled to announce a new monthly feature on Heavy Petal: a collaboration between me and Willowtree, a beautiful and informative website created by my friend Jackie Connelly (the woman behind the gorgeous photographs in Sugar Snaps and Strawberries) and her sister, Tina.

“Willowtree provides information and inspiration to people with all types of food sensitivities and intolerances to help them live a hopeful, healthy and informed life,” write Jackie and Tina. “We have been struggling with food sensitivities for most of our lives. We are first-hand, front line, food sensitivity mavens.”

But despite catering to some very specific dietary needs, Willowtree isn’t a niche site. Jackie and Tina believe in eating whole foods—“local where possible, and organic if given the choice.” And that’s something I think we can all get behind.

Here’s how the feature works: Jackie, Tina and I will choose an in-season ingredient to profile. I’ll tell you how to grow it; they’ll tell you how to eat it. Fun, right?

Right now, we’re harvesting armloads of crispy rhubarb from our gardens, and while I’m freezing most of mine to pair with this summer’s strawberries in jams and pies, the Willowtree girls are already turning this delicious spring vegetable (yes, vegetable!) into Apple Rhubarb Crumble. Read on for the recipe and growing tips.

Apple Rhubarb Crumble with Ginger

Makes: 1 large pie/baking dish or 6 individual portions

Cook Time: 15 minutes prep time + 45 minutes bake time

Filling Ingredients:
4 cups rhubarb, ends chopped off, strings removed, and cut into bite size chunks
2 cups apple, peeled and cut into bite size chunks
1 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup candied or crystallized ginger, chopped into small slices

Filling Method:
In a large bowl combine the rhubarb, apple, sugar and flour and toss well to coat. Add candied ginger and stir. Empty mixture into a deep oven safe baking dish.

Topping Ingredients:
1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup oats *gluten free folks: choose oats made in a gluten free facility
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup unsalted, room temperature butter *lactose free folks: substitute coconut oil

Topping Method:
Using your hands, blend above ingredients together and sprinkle evenly into your baking dish, over top of the filling.

Place in pre-heated oven for 45 minutes at 375°.

Growing Rhubarb

Rhubarb is possibly the most popular and easy-to-grow perennial vegetable, resisting pests and scoffing at temperatures well below freezing. Buy rhubarb plants at the nursery or farmer’s market, and plant in full sun, in rich, well-drained soil. Don’t harvest any stalks the first year; give the plant a chance to get established. In subsequent years, harvest up to half the stalks by twisting them off near the base of the plant. Never eat the leaves; they’re poisonous!

Rhubarb will be fine without any help from you, but appreciates an annual top-dressing (2 inches or so spread around the plant’s root zone) of compost or manure.

Bottom photo by Jackie Connelly; copyright Willowtree.

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