Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

Editor’s note: This column originally ran in the May 18, 2012 issue of the Banner. 

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My mom doesn’t like rhubarb, so when I was growing up, rhubarb was considered a pest. Each time we moved, one of Mom’s first tasks was to tear out the inevitable rhubarb in the new yard. (In some places, this might be enough to have her run out of town by an angry, pitchfork-wielding mob. Please don’t; she’s really a very nice woman.)

As a result, I didn’t taste rhubarb until I was in my 20s. The hubby – known as the boyfriend, at that time – brought me a huge bag of rhubarb after visiting his parents. And he had one simple request: a strawberry-rhubarb pie.

I figured this was my shot to prove to him what a good little wifey I’d make, so I said, “Hey, no problem.” This was good in theory. In application, I had never before baked any sort of pie, nor did I have the slightest inkling what rhubarb even looked like underneath its covering of leaves.

So, I washed the rhubarb. Dried it. Stared at it a while. And then, admitting defeat, I called the hubby’s lovely mother and declared my intention to inadvertently poison her only son: “Hi, Linda. So Cole gave me this rhubarb? For pie? But I’ve never really used rhubarb before? So I just chop up the leaves and throw them in, right?”

Linda gave me two pieces of advice:

Don’t eat the leaves. They are poisonous. To this day, that remains one of the most immediately practical pieces of advice I’ve ever received. (And here I thought the leaves looked like the most appetizing part.)

Peel the outside layer of the rhubarb. The outside can be tough and dirty, but that layer peels off very easily in long ribbons, leaving the clean, more tender stalk exposed. (This was a subject of great controversy when I first posted this recipe to my blog. I stand by this tip. Guy Fieri of “Food Network” fame does, too.)

I followed my mother-in-law’s directions, and the hubby declared the pie the best he’d ever eaten. And he proposed later that year. I’m positive there was a connection.

Notes: Although ripe rhubarb is best for this recipe, the flavor of the pie can vary, depending on the sweetness of the rhubarb. If you like a tart pie, cut back on the sugar by 1/4 a cup or so. I’ve also successfully used frozen rhubarb, if you’re craving a taste of spring before the rhubarb is up. Like in January.