Come spring small aubergine coloured knots are the first to break the surface of my kitchen garden. They split up and quickly grow into green leaves and slender stems. Small first and after what seems to be a couple of days, big green parasols with slender stems that hardly seem able to carry the weight of the leaves. When I pick one and break the leaf from the stem, I imagine a sigh of relief.
The plant repays me throughout summer by perpetually growing new stems untill september. At this point you can usually find me lying on the lawn, acidic froth around the mouth croaking “no more rhubarb. Please, no more.”
Rhubarb is a tough vegetable. It was imported from China to Europe via the Silk Route in the 14th ct. and primarily used for medicinal purposes because of its laxative qualities. If not for the spread of sugar across Europe in the 18th ct, rhubarb would probably only be plantet in The Botanical Garden in a single specimen, and not in every kitchen garden from Amager to Anholt. For when it comes down to it, what is rhubarb really without sugar, if not a rather generic vegetable? But with the right amount of sugar, rhubarb balances deliciously between sour and sweet. The combination tickles my taste buds to writhe about in an acidic dance only to smelt away in a sugary dream. If seasons could be tasted, rhubarb would be my spring.
I think the alliance was conceived ages ago, when a turnip and a rhubarb vowed to throw off the yoke of the dominant fruit trees. Together we are stronger. Together we make fruit.
And so it is. With a few exceptions rhubarb is almost exclusively used as a fruit in the kitchen. So much so that you almost forget that rhubarb is a vegetable. Juice, compote, jam, cake, trifle, pie = fruit. And rhubarb has not merely achieved to affect the unconscious. In 1947 in the US rhubarb was reclassified from vegetable to fruit, because of the tax difference between fruits and vegetables. Like a thief in the night the tough, effervescent rhubarb convinced us that you are what you eat. An what you eat is fruit.