Talk of the Town: Rhubarb waits for no one

For as long as I can remember, I have celebrated the beginning of the "rhubarb season" with a delicious rhubarb custard pie on Mother's Day.

It doesn't have anything to do with Mother's Day, of course, but has everything to do with the condition of the rhubarb. Most years the rhubarb isn't ready to harvest until the beginning of May, but not this year. This year April has been so warm, the Rhubarb Fairies threw caution to the wind and went "all in" on the crop.

Last weekend, my friend Sue wanted to steal a little off the edge of my plant in hopes of getting a rhubarb plant going in her new garden. I suspect my gardening friends would say that it's too late to be transplanting rhubarb, but out we went with a shovel and a bucket. (Worst case scenario is she'll have to come back for more transplants this fall.)

That's when I realized how big the plants already were. Amazing! As we swapped our favorite rhubarb recipes — hers being Grandma's Rhubarb Crumble and mine being a yummy Rhubarb Salsa — my taste buds sprang to life. Off Sue went with a few clumps of rhubarb crown and there I was with the delicious idea of pie and coffee dancing through my head.

You may remember it was just last week when I was going on about the seasonal confusion I often experience at this time of year. Is it time to put away the winter clothes? Should we use the furnace just one more night? Just like many spring tasks, to harvest or not harvest the first rhubarb of the season doesn't even cross my mind until May 1.


Likewise, I don't plant any flowers until Memorial Day weekend. The professional gardener and lawn care folks will tell you much the same; for some springtime jobs you must wait until a specific date on the calendar. But try telling that to the dandelions who decided to pop out of the ground extra early this year! Sometimes you have to follow nature's lead. Nature's lead andyour taste buds, that is.

Into the kitchen I went with an arm full of rhubarb to assemble the first pie of the season while listening to Twins baseball on the radio. My mom gets an A+ when it comes to pie making, and she made sure this was something her daughters could pull off as well. I love making pie and (truth be told) I love eating pie too. I get almost sentimental when it comes to the first pie of the season — no matter the season. Apple, strawberry or rhubarb, at that time of year, each is my favorite.

As we finished our supper, I pulled out the vanilla ice cream, brewed up a pot of decaf and poured some coffee into the tall mugs my Grandma Wilma used to serve rhubarb juice in when I was a child.

For just a moment, I closed my eyes and enjoyed the thought of my Grandma Wilma and my Mom sitting around the table with my sister and me as we savored that first bite of spring.

It was delicious.

Tracy McCray's Talk of the Town column appears Mondays and Saturdays. Send story ideas and feedback to

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