Spring is definitely here! We know it because anyone who has rhubarb in the garden is picking it, and cooking with it. Rhubarb is the first  plant that  can be harvested in the spring, generally from late April through June. The stalks are the edible part of the plant, while the leaves are toxic to humans and are discarded.  The flesh is red and green and very crisp with a fresh  astringent flavor.

Rhubarb, the First Harbinger of Spring

Rhubarb, the First Harbinger of Spring

I made a rhubarb compote on Sunday morning to go with Ruth’s coffee cake (the recipe is included in my blog posting of October 28, 2008) and people were asking for seconds! My favorite way to cook rhubarb is to make a Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp. Here is my recipe:

2 pounds rhubarb stalks, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 pound strawberries, quartered and hulled

3 Tablespoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 stick butter, softened

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar

1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/4 cups quick cooking oatmeal

3 Tablespoons canola oil

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, toss the rhubarb with 3/4 cup of the sugar and let stand for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. In another bowl, toss the strawberries with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and let stand for 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the rhubarb to the strawberries, discarding any extra liquid from the rhubarb. Add the cornstarch, lemon juice, and vanilla and stir well. Transfer the mixture to a 9 by 13 inch baking pan. Combine all of the remaining ingredients, and mix with your fingers until large crumbs form. Sprinkle  the topping evenly over the fruit. Bake 30 minutes at 375. Reduce the heat to 325 and bake for 30 more minutes. Let rest 10 to 20 minutes before serving.

Delicious with ice cream, whipped cream or both!