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Rhubarb lemonade

Few things evoke summer as rhubarb does

Rhubarb lemonade

Few things bring childhood back as much as rhubarb. Few things evoke summer as rhubarb does.

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In my mind there is a garden, I would have shown it to you
A north wind garden facing an open fjord
There a childhood is still waving with the rhubarb
The word rhubarb is a word of summer

(“You should have been here” by Kari Bremnes)

I hodet mitt har æ en hage, æ ville ha vist dæ den,
En nordavindshage ut mot en åpen fjord
Der vaie fremdeles en barndom ilamme rabarbraen
Ordet rabarbra e veldig et sommerord

(“Du skulle vært her” av Kari Bremnes)

In my childhood’s garden in the North of Norway our rhubarb was also facing an open fjord. The hardy plant defied the Norwegian summer and thrived in our garden. My mother made rhubarb soup or rhubarb compote from the green stalks. Today I buy my rhubarb from the shop, but my mother keeps some in the freezer waiting for me.

Reds are sweet and greens are sour

There are several types of rhubarb. Some are deep red or green while others are red skinned or speckled. The red is sweeter than the green, hence it is more popular. The red skinned rhubarb yields a pale red colour if you cook it with the skin.

Whatever variant you use, avoid the leaves as they are toxic. The rhubarb itself is also toxic (along with spinach and beets), but then you have to eat several kilos. Moderation is the key. To quote the Norwegian journalist Joachim Lund: ”Health in every drop, poison in every pint”.

Marcie in a coat of flowers
Steps inside a candy store
Reds are sweet and greens are sour
Still no letter at her door
So she’ll wash her flower curtains
Hang them in the wind to dry
Dust her tables with his shirt and
Wave another day goodbye

Marcie’s faucet needs a plumber
Marcie’s sorrow needs a man
Red is autumn green is summer
Greens are turning and the sand
All along the ocean beaches
Stares up empty at the sky
Marcie buys a bag of peaches
Stops a postman passing by
And summer goes
Falls to the sidewalk like string and brown paper
Winter blows
Up from the river there’s no one to take her
To the sea
(“Marcie” by Joni Mitchell)

100 % pure rhubarb juice

Lime peel

From my great aunt I have learned that mixing rhubarb with sugar will produce rhubarb juice. Adding sugar to berries (you only need a couple of spoons) will always produce a nice coating of juice (called macerating) and this enhances the flavour. Because rhubarb is so sour, it tolerates a lot of sugar, hence it produces a lot of juice. This is an advantage. Add as little water to the lemonade as possible – let the rhubarb and lime shine.

Rhubarb lemonade (makes about 1,5 litre)

600 g rhubarb
400 g sugar
3,5 limes
1 litre water
ice cubes

1. Wash the rhubarb stalks and trim the ends. Cut the stalks into pieces. If the rhubarb is red skinned or speckled, leave the skin on if you want the red colour. Place them in a pan with the sugar. Let the rhubarb rest for at least an hour – the sugar will produce rhubarb juice.

2. Now add the water and bring to boil for only a minute. Leave to cool for the flavours to develop.

3. Transfer the rhubarb to a sieve and push it through with a spoon, collecting all liquid in a bowl. Now add the juice of 3 limes.

4. Slice the remaining lime as garnish. This makes a pretty strong flavour, so you can add a lot of ice cubes without diluting the wonderful flavour. Or add rum, but that is a different story.

Next time I will make a rhubarb tart that my great aunt used to make. She made many cakes and watched many summers pass by with no one to call her own.

More rhubarb recipes?

Rhubarb crumble
Rhubarb tart 1938