The sweet and sour combination of strawberries and rhubarb is a seasonal treat. Indulging in a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie is tempting, but much healthier and in many ways even better is turning the morning bowl of oatmeal into something special by cooking up a stalk of rhubarb with rolled oats and then adding freshly sliced, sweet strawberries, along with my usual add-ons of ground cinnamon, a handful of walnuts and finally a splash of kefir to moisten the hearty breakfast.
In the fall and early winter, I like to cook up my oatmeal with some organic Cape Cod cranberries, and it’s a seasonal treat in late spring to cook it up with rhubarb and top it off with sliced strawberries. I was somewhat surprised that I could not find any rhubarb for sale at the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market in Troy (Rensselaer County, NY) on a recent Saturday, but did luck out in finding a farm stand with pint containers of beautiful, sweet strawberries. Kudos to Our Farm CSA at Spring Hill Farm of Greenwich (Washington County, NY) for having strawberries available so early in the season in upstate New York. “Farmer Jenn” comes down to the Troy market from Greenwich (about 30 miles to the north of Troy) to deliver CSA shares and to also sell, in the course of the season, its “over 50 types and 300 varieties of vegetables, melons, berries and herbs” (which on this Saturday in late May included pints of ripe, sweet strawberries for $4.99).
Unable to find rhubarb at the farmers market, my hometown food co-op, the Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, NY, was the source for the rhubarb from a local farm in nearby New Lebanon (Columbia County, NY). At $4.99 per pound, I was reminded that I should tend more carefully to the rhubarb plants in my backyard garden, which haven’t been very productive.
According to the wonderful reference book, Edible, An Illustrated Guide to the World’s Food Plants (Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2008), rhubarb is a tricky food to categorize. Although a popular “pie fruit”, it “is no fruit at all, but a stalky cousin of sorrel and very much a leafy vegetable” (Edible, at p. 62). This comprehensive guide to food plants also warns that “the large, wavy edged leaves on rhubarb’s stout red or green stalks have been associated with cases of poisoning due to their concentrations of oxalic acid and anthraquinone, and must not be eaten” (Edible, at p. 184). [Edible was reviewed on this website a couple of years ago; Although out-of-stock from the National Geographic Society, it remains available from other booksellers.]
The Honest Weight Food Co-op is also my source for organic rolled oats, which are available in either regular or thicker cut, at a reasonable $1.69 per pound. I’ve calculated that the 1/2 cup of oats used for this recipe, which makes one serving, costs a mere 22 cents. (Either regular or thick cut can be used in this 5-minute recipe. No need for the “quick” oats.) And the food co-op is where I purchase organic, ground cinnamon in the bulk food section of the store. I can fill to the brim a small jar with organic, ground cinnamon for $1.49. (The $12.38 per pound cost is much less intimidating with the realization that a mere .12 pound of ground cinnamon fills the small jar to the brim!)
For the past couple of years, Cowbella’s plain kefir has become a mainstay of my breakfast. This nonfat, cultured milk is made from the Catskills’ dairy own small herd of pasture-grazed Jersey cows “treated with love and respect.” At the food co-op one quart of the deliciously tangy plain kefir, with its live active kefir cultures, priced at $5.25 lasts me for more than a week and has eliminated ordinary milk from my diet, a plus since kefir and yogurt with live active cultures are much easier to digest. (It also comes in the sweeter flavors of maple or strawberry.) The organic, raw walnuts, also from the bulk foods section of the co-op (from Grower Direct in the heart of California’s Central Valley) of late seem a bit pricier at $16.99/lb. Still, a handful (perhaps an 1/8th of a cup), add a nice crunch and flavor for about 50 cents. [Daniel A. Sumner, director of the University of California’s Agricultural Issues Center and a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of California at Davis in his California Water Blog has suggested that although the drought has been “tough on farms and especially painful for farm workers,” consumers are “likely to see only small food price effect in 2015 from the California drought.” Check out the link to his blog; his reasoning is fascinating.]
Five Minute Strawberry Rhubarb Oatmeal (one serving)
One cup of water
1/2 cup of rolled oats (either regular or thicker cut may be used)
1 stalk of rhubarb
Sliced fresh strawberries
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
Handful of organic raw walnuts
1/4 cup of plain kefir
Rinse, scrub and slice in small pieces one rhubarb stalk. Rinse and slice half dozen strawberries. Bring a cup (8 ounces) of water to a rapid boil in a small pot & lower heat to a simmer. Add 1/2 cup of rolled oats and the small slices of rhubarb stalk and cook (uncovered), at a simmer, for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and cover until all water absorbed. Transfer to a small bowl, and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and add sliced fresh strawberries and a handful of raw organic walnuts.
Moisten with 1/4 cup of plain kefir (which I like to add around the circumference of the oatmeal). Enjoy a seasonal bowl of 5-minute strawberry rhubarb oatmeal!
(Frank W. Barrie, 6/1/15)