SPRING 2011. RHUBARB. 05.20.11
“Is he a boy or is he a girl?” This was the question coming from my children, newly obsessed with Michael Jackson. The man, the music, the dancing – they couldn’t get enough of it. But that same question kept coming up. His hair long and his voice high, they just couldn’t make heads or tails of it. “Boy or girl?” they wanted to know.
One might be similarly confused by rhubarb. Is it a fruit or is it a vegetable? It lacks seeds. The stalk is the edible part. So, it must be a vegetable. But its tart flavor and frequent appearance in pies and crisps suggest otherwise. Do we even care what it is? We know that rhubarb is finally here, despite the fact that spring can’t seem to get here and stay. We also know that we like rhubarb and that there are things we can do with it in addition to the predictable pairing with strawberries (though we have that base covered, too. Don’t miss the ever-versatile rhubarb strawberry sauce). I, for one, am particularly pleased with the delightfully unexpected rhubarb mojito.
So maybe it really doesn’t matter. I’ve shared some ideas this week for enjoying rhubarb during its relatively short season. But if you must know, rhubarb is technically a vegetable. According to Wikipedia, in 1947, a New York court declared rhubarb a fruit in the United States for the purposes of regulations and duties, resulting in lower taxes (no clue why fruits warrant lower taxes than vegetables – a topic for another day’s investigation). I will admit to being a bit disappointed in the answer. Perhaps it’s like the Michael Jackson question, for which we know the obvious answer even though it doesn’t seem to matter one way or the other. Greatness reigns supreme no matter what you call it.