The best thing about rhubarb for me has always been that it is red. In the usual Pacific Northwest Spring through to “Junuary” (a common term used by market folk) the weather is usually cool. Spring feels “late,” and the dedicated GTF market crew will do all that we can to keep the donuts from getting rained on. At sunrise when you open a market tub full of rhubarb, you are excited to see the rich and vibrant red amongst the sea of green you will need to display before the crowds start rushing downtown.
Unlike many of the market shoppers, I don’t have great memories of strawberry rhubarb pie. I am not sure we ate much pie at all during my childhood. And to be honest, I always thought it strange for the combo; rhubarb and strawberries don’t have much overlap on the market shelves. I have since tasted strawberry rhubarb pie and it is a no-fail tasty treat, don’t get me wrong, but it isn’t what drives me to pull rhubarb off the shelf.
For many years, I passed rhubarb up altogether, until I met and studied with Laura McCandlish, an incredible blogger, writer, and radio personality. She has a way for turning me on to almost anything. Several years ago in a Master Food Preserver class she demonstrated making rhubarb syrup with the same variety of rhubarb that we grow and sell at Gathering Together Farm. The color again was incredible – a hot magenta-pink. She suggested using it in sodas and mixed drinks. Two years ago, she used the same the syrup to make Italian ice with fresh mint. The flavor combo was perfect, and the frozen treat hit the spot for this eight-month preggo, at the time.
I started cleaning out my freezer early this year, because unlike the usual Oregon spring, this May feels more like July, and I want to make room for the blueberry harvest. I found two-quart bags of rhubarb and was inspired to make freeze pops to break this unusual heat. I boiled them down, added mint and honey to taste, strained, and voila: the taste of a cool sweet spring in a summery spell. Tonight I had the joy of watching three young boys gobble them down, and my 2-year-old son keeps dragging a chair to the freezer begging for more.
The Rhubarb Honey Mint Syrup Recipe
8-10 ribs of red-ribbed rhubarb, chopped
½ cup honey
3 Tbsp dried mint or double with fresh mint
In a large sauce pan, cook the rhubarb with some water on low heat. I used about 1 cup of water. Add mint. As the rhubarb starts cooking and more juice collects in the pain, raise heat to medium. When fully cooked, mash rhubarb and mint together. Strain juice into a bowl. Return to pot, add honey and warm until the honey is fully blended. Taste. This is the concentrated rhubarb syrup. Add more honey if you like it sweeter. It should be a nice blend of sweet and tart.
For ice pops, you can make a more concentrated pop, or a light and refreshing pop. It’s up to you. I added a little bit of water to the syrup. Pour into molds. If this is your first time using freezer pop molds, make sure that you warm the ice pop by running it under warm water to get it out of the mold. Don’t rush this, you will see the pop starting to release from the sides. Gently tug on the pop to remove. Enjoy!