By Anne DesBrisay
“Her instructions were to pull up all the weeds. I thought it was a weed. It looked like all the other weeds. And who cares about her stupid rhubarb anyway? I’ll just plant her some more.”
My son was 16, hired to help an elderly neighbour with a back garden gone feral. He was so delighted with the job he had done for her: nine hours of coaxing pristine order to what had been chaos. She, well, she was not delighted — her furious face the colour of the crimson stalks of the 60-year-old rhubarb patch my kid had just wrenched from the earth.
A note of contrition was written. New rhizomes were planted, but relations have never been quite the same. It still smarts. On both sides.
People are passionate about their rhubarb. They may ignore it, let the stalks grow wild and unharvested. Still, they are fond of the idea of them.
I have fond memories of my grandmother’s rhubarb. She used to give us the raw stalks from her June garden, along with a bag of sugar, and my brothers and sister and I would sit on her porch dunking and crunching while she made a pie.
I’m pretty fond of what 3 Tarts Bake Shop on Wellington does with rhubarb and strawberries — that classic happy marriage. On a sweetcrust pastry (pâte sablée) the fruit bobs up from a buttery custard pond, their juices bursting on the surface. The tart is best served at room temperature. The second slice should be at room temperature too.
Cost: $13 for a rhubarb tart at 3 Tarts
Find: Rhubarb at local farmers’ markets or in your neighbour’s back garden
3 Tarts, 1320 Wellington St. W., 613-729-9832.