Rhubarb grows everywhere in the mountains…except at my house. Long neglected clumps of rhubarb thrive in old Colorado homesteads - so why can’t I grow rhubarb? After three years of unsuccessfully planting commercial rhubarb starts in various corners of my yard, I consulted with the Colorado State University Extension Master Gardeners.
Master Gardener to the Rescue
My rhubarb hero, Master Gardener Festus Hagins, gave me a cutting from his rhubarb and at long last – I’ve got a huge clump of rhubarb. Starting with a healthy plant was only the beginning of my rhubarb journey. We decided that our automatic sprinkler system was keeping the rhubarb too wet. The answer…Dean built a raised-bed that requires me to hand-water the plants. Yes, sometimes I forget, but my rhubarb is forgiving and perks right up when I finally give it a deep soak.
Growing Rhubarb takes Time
I had to learn patience as is new rhubarb “farmer.” The first year after planting, my plant was healthy and full, but I didn’t harvest any stalks so that all the energy would go into establishing a strong root system. This is year number two, and we’re eating all-things rhubarb this summer. I just found out that perhaps I should have waited one more year to harvest, oh well.
Start with the Basics
Mastering a basic rhubarb sauce may not seem like a glamorous endeavor, but when done right, it is deliciously versatile. While I love the flavor of rhubarb, my childhood memories of rhubarb sauce are of an overly sweet bowl of mush…it’s time to revisit rhubarb sauce.
In this recipe, orange juice and a dash of Grand Marnier, add a new dimension to the sauce. Lower sugar and less stirring help embolden the natural flavor and texture of this snappy summer fruit. Serve this sauce over pancakes, as a dessert or layer it into a parfait...it's all good.
Rhubarb Sauce Revisited
- 4 cups rhubarb cut stalks into ½-inch pieces (about 1 pound, leaves removed)
- ¼ orange juice
- ½ cup sugar
- pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (optional)
- In a large saucepan, combine orange juice, sugar and salt. Cook over medium-high heat until sugar is dissolved.
- Stir rhubarb into orange juice/sugar mixture and bring to a simmer. Don’t worry if the mixture seems dry. The stalks will gradually release their moisture and a sauce will begin to take shape.
- Continue to simmer for 8-10 minutes or until the rhubarb becomes tender. If you would like to retain the chunky texture of rhubarb (like I do), only stir 2-3 times during cooking. More frequent stirring will create a smooth sauce.
- Remove from heat and stir in Grand Mariner or another orange liqueur, if desired. Refrigerate 1 hour or overnight.