Rhubarb, Rhubarb

The humble rhubarb was cultivated in China over 2700 years ago to aid digestion…Europeans listed it amongst silks and satins as an important item of merchandise in the 14th Century…

COUNTRY SQUIRE MAGAZINE

BY NONI CHRISTOPOULOS

A dear friend who grows his own vegetables gave me a big bundle of rhubarb and tells me that the vegetable which we cook as fruit was at one time worth several times the price of opium. The Chinese used the rhubarb root for medicinal purposes to aid digestion over 2700 years ago. It was introduced to Europeans in the 14th Century via the Silk Road and word soon spread that rhubarb cured various bowel and stomach ailments.  It was listed as an important item of merchandise alongside items such as silk, satin, pearls, and opium.

Europeans tried to cultivate rhubarb from China on European soil but were not successful in replicating it for its medicinal use, instead as sugar became cheaper (rhubarb is very tart) and more widely available rhubarb became a culinary marvel. I put it to good use and made the following with…

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