“Stewed.” Now there’s a word from days gone by. Stewed tomatoes, stewed pudding, stewed chicken. In the worst cases, stewed can signify “boiled until bland.” Good stewing, however, can be quite something. When you stew a fruit the right way, you get compote, sauce, bright colors and often the best flavor that fruit can provide. And sometimes, you’re stretching the season for a fruit that is here and gone too fast. Simple stewed rhubarb is just such a winner.

(For those of you who right now are saying, “but it’s not a fruit!”: Sorry, in 1947 the U.S. Customs Court in Buffalo, New York, ruled that since rhubarb — technically an “herbaceous perennial” — is used as a fruit here in the U.S. of A., it would be called thus. Lowered the taxes on the stuff, too. Who knew that vegetables were taxed more highly than fruit?)

Stewed rhubarb from Baking Family and Garside Group LLCWhen you’re at the store or farmers’ market, it’s worth seeking out the reddest rhubarb you can find for this dish; the greener rhubarb stems will shine in something like Loulies’ spicy rhubarb chutney. Since rhubarb has such high water content, there’s no need to add more. This is just the fruit, sugar and some lemon juice to help bring out the zing. (I tried lime juice, thinking is would be even better, but there was just not enough punch.)

You ask, “so what do I serve this with?” I’ve plopped it on an English muffin with butter for breakfast. Stewed rhubarb does not require a fussy pairing — a dollop on a slice of poundcake, or layers of stewed rhubarb with sweetened creme fraiche. Just enjoy it now, before the season passes.

Stewed Rhubarb

Adapted from Bon Appétit magazine.

Makes about 3 cups

  • 1-1/2 pounds fresh rhubarb, washed and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a large pot (room enough for the rhubarb to move around and bubble up). Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and cover pan; simmer until rhubarb is tender, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes. Refrigerate when cool.

Photo and recipe copyright 2010 Garside Group LLC