Love it. Hate it. Weird rhubarb was a mainstay of the early settlers of the badlands and grasslands of North Dakota. It still is! Whether it was brought from Scandinavian countries, or Germany, or Ukraine, or Russia, no one really knows. But almost every farmyard had it. Rhubarb!
(Check out the highlighted links in this blog…you’ll discover great information about rhubarb and western places!)
It Saved the County!
An entire chapter in one of the best recipe books/history books about the settlement of western North Dakota, Prairie Cooks by Carrie Young with Felicia Young, is devoted to growing and cooking with rhubarb (available at the Western Edge Bookstore in Medora and at the Dunn County Museum in Dunn Center, North Dakota.) It’s titled “Entire County Saved By Rhubarb” and tells tales of a huge rhubarb patch in Williams County, North Dakota. Included are humorous anecdotes as well as several tried and true recipes.
When rhubarb suddenly pops from the ground in North Dakota, it’s spring! And rhubarb recipes seem to materialize out of no where. From recipe books, family recipe files, magazines, newspapers, television and radio shows. In fact, there are community celebrations which honor the vegetable, which many consider a fruit! Small town Aneta, North Dakota rocks with rhubarb!
A nickname given to rhubarb by early settlers as Pie Plant. Pie was the rhubarb delicacy most appreciated by the majority of folks.
Desserts, Breads, and Cakes, Too!
Rhubarb Sauce was a mainstay of most kitchens, most likely ‘canned’ in quart jars and stored (for years?!) in cellars and pantries for future use. Anything sugar combines well with rhubarb, to counter it’s bitter taste. Even dipping stalks of raw rhubarb in sugar and eating as a snack was a special spring and summer thing to do. Rhubarb dessert recipes, all with ample amounts of sugar, are easily found in most area cookbooks.
It Won’t Stop Growing!
Once established, not much hinders the growth of rhubarb! A perfect plant for harsh, northern climates, rhubarb grows best in areas where the soil freezes in the winter. In fact, there needs to be an extended period of soil temperatures 40F degrees or colder in order to produce stalks.
Important to know is that the leaves of the rhubarb plant are toxic and should not be eaten due to their high concentration of oxalic acid. After spring emergence if there is a freeze, none of the plant which has emerged should be consumed as oxylic acid may have moved into the stem. Consumption could cause permanent damage to human body organs.
Got Rhubarb Recipes, or Memories?
Love to eat? Here’s a badlands eatery you’re gonna like! So do the cowboys! This 1880’s Establishment Is Still Great in Medora!
Want to do some exploring? Walk across the Yellowstone River on an antique iron monstrosity? Not afraid of the dark? Read this: This Tunnel is Long and Dark! (bring a flashlight!)
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See more of the beautiful grasslands and badlands of western North Dakota and eastern Montana here: It’s Beautiful Out There!