The other day as I was gathering rhubarb to make some delicious Homemade Rhubarb Strawberry Pineapple Jam, I began to reminisce. As you all know by now, my Mother has always been an avid gardener. Ever since I was a little girl she has grown just about every vegetable you can think of in her gardens. Yes, I did say gardens!
When I was a child, Mom always had three garden plots. Dad always tilled the gardens every spring while Mom strategically planned what vegetable would be planted where, and when. Now, at the age of 82, both she and my Dad still plant a garden every spring; through the years they have cut back to one small garden.
This year they recruited their, (soon-to-be seven year old), great-grandson to help plant sweet corn. He loved helping them! Maybe he will have his own garden plot someday.
One of the vegetables Mom always has an abundance of in her garden is rhubarb. Rhubarb is a perennial plant (the kind that grows from year to year) which forms large fleshy leaves and produces stalks similar to celery.
According to the Michigan State University – Rhubarb is an ancient plant traced back to China in 2700 BC. It was used for medical purposes as a laxative, to reduce fever and cleanse the body. Rhubarb can be eaten raw, but because of its tart flavor, it is more often cooked and sweetened with sugar. It is called the “pie plant” because one of its most popular uses is as pie filling. The leaves of rhubarb should never be eaten because the leaves and roots contain a toxic poison called oxalic acid.
Harvesting rhubarb is actually fun; there are two ways to harvest rhubarb. One is to use a sharp knife to cut off the stalks and the second is to gently pull and twist the stalk until the stalk breaks off from the plant. Try to pick stalks that are at least 10” or longer. The deeper the red color of the stalks, the more flavorful. The larger stalks are not as tender and stringy as the medium-sized stalks.
To ensure that the plant has enough energy stored up to make it through the winter, never harvest all the stalks off your rhubarb plant. After you cut the stalks from the plant, cut the leaves from the stalk and throw them away. The leaves of the rhubarb plant are poisonous and should never be eaten.
Harvesting rhubarb generally begins in April and May and is available through early summer.
When cooking fresh rhubarb, remove any brown or scaly spots, trim ends and wash thoroughly. When cooking rhubarb do not use aluminum, iron or copper pans. The high acidity will react with the metal causing the rhubarb to turn a brownish color and also discoloring the pan.
Before storing rhubarb, remove the leaves from the stalks. The stalks can be kept in the refrigerator, unwashed and wrapped tightly in plastic for up to three weeks.
Rhubarb is low in calories and composed of 95 percent water. It does contain potassium and a small amount of vitamin C and fiber, two grams per cup. Rhubarb can be used to make jellies, jams, cakes, muffins and combined with other fruits in baked sauces and beverages.
My Mother has been making this delicious jam recipe for as long as I can remember. All of my adult children love it! It also makes a great diy gift that’s perfect as a hostess or housewarming gift, teacher appreciation gift, birthday gift, etc… Just tie a cute ribbon around the top of the jar, add a loaf of fresh bread, place it all into a basket with a nice note and off ya go!
We refrigerate this jam, however, it freezes really well too. I currently have 5 pint and 5 quart in our basement freezer. I periodically give some away to family and friends. Once a jar is opened, it will keep for weeks… unless you are like my family and devour it within a matter of days! We use Ball Wide-Mouth Mason Canning Jars for all of our canning. You can also find Purple Heritage Collection Pint Jars that are fun when giving this jam as a diy gift.
I hope that you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does. It really is an easy recipe; it just takes a little time. It’s totally worth it though.