Interestingly neither Rhubarb nor Strawberries are true fruits. The flower of a plant forms a true fruit. The flower actually has ovaries below its pistil. Strawberries are derived from other parts of the flower and they are called ‘false fruits’. The treasured part of rhubarb is its rose-red stalks, which have nothing to do with the flower at all. However much we think Rhubarb is as American as apple pie, it was brought to this country in 1820. The plant itself has been used medicinally by the Chinese for thousands of years. It appears in the 2700-year-old volume called The Devine Farmer’s Herb-Root Classic. Rhubarb was first grown in Maine and Massachusetts. Now, most commercial production is done in Washington, Oregon, and Michigan. But all over the northern US and Canada, it’s looked forward to every Spring.
|The Strawberry Flower
The U.S. grows more Strawberries than any other country in the world by far. Over a million three hundred tons were grown in 2011 alone. And while the domesticated strawberry was first grown in Brittany in France, the Americas did contribute to the modern strawberry. A strawberry called F. Virginiana was imported from Eastern North America to Europe where it was crossed with the local wild strawberry.
The combination of Rhubarb and Strawberry is so commonplace the one food writer actually published a piece entitled “10 Amazing Rhubarb recipes Without Strawberries!”. The combination makes so much sense. The tartness of the Rhubarb combined the sweetness of the strawberry to make a filling that is at turns sweet and tangy. Andrew worked with a recipe for Rhubarb pie (without the Strawberries) from “The Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book” (Grand Central Publishing 2013). Four and Twenty Blackbirds is a bakery in Brooklyn that sells nothing by pies. It was opened by two sisters from South Dakota, Emily and Melissa Elsen. They hail from a family of pie bakers including their grandmother who baked all the pies for their mother’s locally touted restaurant. Andrew experimented with today’s recipe to make his own version of Strawberry Rhubarb pie. The first pie he made was a 50/50 mixture of strawberries to rhubarb. This yielded a sweeter pie. The second pie was 1/3 strawberry to 2/3 rhubarb. It is pretty much a matter of personal taste. While I favored the sweet version, Andrew preferred the tart. You choose.
|The Elsen Sisters of South Dakota and Brooklyn