|Yummy Rhubarb Crisp!
Well here we are getting fired up about the garden and all that she will bear for us… spring, summer, fall and winter… each holds a different gift for the individual. Most people are not aware of the extended growing capabilities that we now have available in more northern climates, such as mine here in the thumb of Michigan. We have some cold winters but with heated and unheated greenhouses, high tunnels and/ or hoop houses the posibilities are quite amazing. No we can’t grow tomatoes, they need a certain amount of sunlight to bear that vine ripened flavorful tomato. I don’t believe in hydroponics and wouldn’t eat anything grown that way on purpose… read the labels friends, you’d be surprised at what you’re eating during the winter months. I believe, but don’t totally practice eating ‘in season’… my family likes banana’s and oranges and we buy them in the winter. I do realize that eating local and in season are wonderful and right things, but, we are a bit spoiled. With all the preserving and root cellaring we do we have pretty much every thing we could want out of the garden all winter long and right on through spring until it all starts coming in fresh again. With our hoop houses we can have fresh greens and lettuces all winter long… like I said we are spoiled! Which brings me to helping you put up some rhubarb and giving you recipes on how to use it in and out ‘of season’… enjoy!
*What are tussie mussies you say… or you are saying quaintly how you haven’t heard that term in ages… either way, it is a far cuter word than ‘bouquet’… Brief history on them… from reading I have discovered they apparently originated in Elizabethan England and people carried and sniffed them around to help disguise the dreadful stench of London’s streets. They are made with aromatic flowers and herbs such as lavender, rosemary, and rue, which were believed to be protection from the plaque and other diseases. They were also believed to help cleanse the air of a house where sickness was. By the time of the Victorian era they had become ‘highly stylized nosegays’, (I like that word too), and had ‘become a favorite way to send messages to friends and lovers’. They also were used in bridal bouquets, they were both pretty and practical. So now that you know how these adorable little things came to be lets get into the fun of making them and learning the meanings behind particular herbs and flowers.
During my discovery on tussie mussies I learned the meanings and sentiments that go behind many herbs and flowers that I as an avid gardener never knew… yes I know red roses mean love but no I didn’t know that basil has a double meaning, it can symbolize both love and hate. I am sure that some of these little gestures or as said ‘notes’ could have caused some serious ‘oop’s, that’s not what I meant’ moments. So here are some interesting meanings behind those much loved blossoms and herbs…
*Lemon balm is for sympathy
*chervil represents sincerity
*rue conveys disdain
*parsley represents festivity
*rosebuds are of course for love… although different colors mean different things… more on that another day
*violets stand for modesty
*basil can represent as mentioned above both love and hate… be careful on who you send that one to!
A standard bridal tussie mussie was very symbolic… here is what would have typically been included in one…
*rose for love
*rosemary for remembrance
*mint for purity
*thyme for courage
*lily of the valley was for the return of happiness
*lavender gave luck… although it also represents mistrust, ummm..
How to make a tussie mussie…
The American Museum in Bath, England gives instructions in a museum booklet for creating them.
You can make tussie mussies with fresh herbs and flowers with dried materials. A fresh t.m. can be dried with its charm and fragrance intact if you’re careful to use only those fresh ingredients that dry easily; lavender, thyme, mint, rosemary, and southerwood, for example. Use as many sweet smelling herbs as possible, and try to include herbs with contrasting colors and leaf shapes. These simple guidelines will yield a traditional tussie mussie.
1. Start with a fresh rose, still in bud, or a few sprigs of a flowering herb like sage. Surround the rose or flowering herb with a circle of green leafed herb, preferably one like southerwood that has rather finely cut leaves. Tie the stems together with a piece of string or knitting wool.
2. Add another circle of a fragrant herb, and tie again. Repeat this process- varying the colors and leaf shapes from row or row and using flowering herbs like mint or marjoram if you have them on hand- until the tussie mussie is the size you want. Make the last circle with a large leaved herb such as lamb’s ear or rose geranium.
3. For a formal effect, create a collar for the nosegay by cutting a small hole in the center of a paper doily and slipping it over the stems. Tie the finished tussie mussie with a ribbon to hold the doily in place
… now you have the means to make and give adorable messages using your blossoms and herbs!
*(information taken and adapted from “Herbs; Gardens, Decorations, and Recipes, by Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead; Clarkson N. Potter, Ind./Publishers, 1985)
Rhubarb is a spring treat that you either love or hate… there is no gray area with this tangy, mouth puckering fruit. Asparagus and rhubarb are two of the first home grown things, other than lettuce & greens from the hoop houses that we get to feast on after winters long silence of green stuff. My family all enjoys rhubarb in any desert, pie or preserves… Mix em’ up with yummy strawberries and they are more manageable. Rhubarb is extremely easy to store for winter and takes no more time then to pick, clean and cut. We cut the pieces into 1 inch chunks and then toss them either in one gallon ice cream buckets or freezer bags; freeze fir up to 1 year. Enjoy your favorite treats year round. One thing many people fail to realize is that you can eat rhubarb all summer as well… just be careful not to harvest after it has gone to seed. Once the seed heads have dried and died back, simply cut back and then enjoy some fresh stalks, just don’t pick it to much… slow and easy during the summer and fall. Be sure to water it during dry spells to keep the new stalks coming on. Here are some easy and yummy treats to enjoy this spring time treat! One other thing to remember when harvesting rhubarb is to always leave at least one third of the plants stalks so it will be strong and can replenish itself.
Here are a couple favorite’s around the Smith house…
6 c Rhubarb cut into 1” pieces
1 1/2 c sugar
6 tbsp flour
1 c brown sugar
1 c oatmeal
3/4 c flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c melted butter
1. Combine first 3 ingredients, toss and place in 9×13 pan.
2. Combine remaining ingredients and sprinkle over Rhubarb.
3. Bake @ 375 for 40 –45 minutes.
4. Serve warm with Vanilla Ice Cream.
4 c diced rhubarb
4 c water
2 c sugar
1/2 c orange juice
1/3 c lemon juice
2 liters clear soda– sprite, ginerale, etc.
Cook rhubarb in water till soft. Strain through a clean cloth lined colander. Add sugar to the liquid & bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
Add juices. Chill. Add soda just before serving!