I never tire of seeing my garden come alive at the beginning of the growing season. Any sign of life after a cold, dreary winter is cause for a celebratory dance of joy around my watering can. Even the very first dandelion green that appears is a clear message that Spring has truly arrived.
As Spring appears and awakens dormant plants, so do the memories stir of being in the garden with my grandma when I was much younger. In her old-country, Ukrainian way, my grandma taught me not only secrets of growing an abundance of food, but how to practice sustainable gardening all growing season long.
She toiled in her garden from the very first softening of the ground, to the very harshest of frosts. I remember her Swiss chard and kale lasting the longest far into Fall. And I remember her rhubarb being the first beacon of life in her sleeping garden.
There is something mysterious about rhubarb. One day there is nothing—just a flat area of dirt, and then the next day appears an alien-like ball of crinkly leaves that has pushed its way towards the warm light of the sun. Once unearthed, it quickly begins to expand and grow tall and strong creating lush umbrella leaves. The leaves aren’t edible and are actually poisonous. When harvesting rhubarb stalks, cut off and dispose of the leaves immediately. It is the stalk that provides the tart and tasty base for pies, cakes and jams.
Harvesting produce from a sustainable home garden is gratifying beyond compare. But, it is the very first taste of the season that gets you excited for what is yet to come.
Grandma’s Pound Cake topped with Sugared Rhubarb
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. sour cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9″x5″ loaf pan. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs. Stir in vanilla. Fold in flour mixture alternately with sour cream. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake on the middle rack for about 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan to cool completely.
Easy Sugared Rhubarb
6 c. chopped rhubarb
1 c. granulated sugar
2 tbsp. water
Combine all ingredients in a medium pot. Cook over medium heat, until sugar dissolves, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The rhubarb should be soft when done. (3 cups)