This year in the Netherlands, spring came rather early. We’ve had already many warm sunny days in March and April which I hope don’t run out later in the summer. What a huge change from 2013 where at this time last year, we were still cocooned in winter jackets and it was snowing at Easter. Winter seemed as if it would never leave.
The gardens have been loving this early warm weather, although a little more rain would have been ideal. As I mentioned in my last post, spring is always a difficult season in terms of fresh harvest but the first radishes and lettuces have already made it to the kitchen and the seedlings for the summer vegetables are growing fast.
In the last few weeks, I’ve been enjoying one of my two favourite Dutch spring ingredients: rhubarb! (white asparagus is the other one) Indulge in rhubarb now until early summer. Lucky for us, rhubarb loves to grow in colder climates – I will remember to be grateful for this next time I’m complaining about the cold. I always look forward to spotting the exquisite pink and red stalks at the market and I just can’t resist buying rhubarb because it looks so beautiful. We tend to see more pink and red rhubarb for sale because it’s more popular with consumers but green rhubarb is equally tasty and the colour makes no difference to the taste – well it can’t get any more sour! Choose firm unblemished stalks and discard the leaves.
I discovered rhubarb only a few years ago but now I’m making up for lost time and look for any opportunity to include its sour explosion in my spring dishes. Traditionally rhubarb was used in sweet dishes but it works equally well as an accompaniment for savoury dishes – think smoked mackerel or roast pork. Rhubarb loves to be paired with orange and spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, and vanilla, and when the first strawberries are ready, you know what to make – strawberry and rhubarb pie and jam! It’s lovely as a compote or poached whole in the oven with a sprinkling of sugar – use the leftover juice in a gorgeous sparkling drink or cocktail. Spring just got better!
PS I love Nigel Slater’s rhubarb recipes: see here, here and here.