By Bruce Weinstein & Mark Scarbrough
Last year about this time, we were so excited about putting in a new garden at the side of the house. We’d even done our homework! Or most of it. We had the whole thing laid out, including the three rhubarb plants at the back, a boon to any gardener both because they provide a nice backdrop and because, well, the stems cook up so darn delicious. Strawberry-rhubarb pie has always been one of our favorite indulgences.
Proud of our plans to plant, we brought it up in passing to a friend. Well, specifically, to Jessie Price, the food editor at EatingWell.
Expecting gushing approval for our self-sustaining rhubarb habit, we were instead met with gasps and guffaws. “You’re not actually planting that stuff, are you?” she laughed. “It’s a weed in New England.” Undaunted, we plugged on.
Yes, those three plants did grow very well, but that turned out to be the least of it. As the weather warmed we started to notice the woods around our house were infested with the stuff. Hundreds of rhubarb plants sprang up among the ferns, under the trees, along the creek bed. Over the years, people had planted them everywhere. Our town is precolonial, you know. So we’re dealing with the detritus of centuries of big-eyed gardeners. We were surrounded by some sort of nightmarish rhubarb jungle.
By June, we’d canned, cooked, baked and braised our way through the underbrush. Then we started mowing it down.
Even though nothing tames the stuff in the wilds of Connecticut, the same can’t be said in the kitchen. Strawberries are the natural, classic mellow-inducer. They tone down that prized sourness—especially in these recipes for a summer salad and a strudel, each just for two.
Strawberries and rhubarb: it’s still a match made in heaven. That’s why we’re planting strawberries this season. Lots of strawberries. And we defy Jessie to tell us they grow wild in the woods. Because if they do, we’re never leaving New England.