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Strawberries and rhubarb are a common June combo

Quinoa Salad with Rhubarb and Strawberries (Provided photo — Yvona Fast)

The climate is changing — and the North Country is catching up to the rest of the world. In most places, strawberries and rhubarb ripen at the same time — and June 9 is Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Day. This springtime treat dates back to the 1800s; rhubarb’s tart flavor goes well with the sweet, luscious berry.

In the North Country, this has long not been the case. We began harvesting our rhubarb in early May but strawberry season came in the second half of June — sometimes the last week of June.

But in 2024, we’re catching up to the rest of the world. The farmstand I frequent had strawberries on the last Saturday in May. At our Saranac Lake (High Peaks) Farmers Market, they were available on the first Saturday in June.

Rhubarb’s perennial, tart stalks survive our Adirondack winters and I have been harvesting them for a few weeks. I’ve put them in muffins, made rhubarb sauce with rhubarb and last fall’s apples, cooked them with meat dishes, even made my favorite rhubarb custard pie. The humble, puckery stalks, which Americans serve in dessert fare with lots of sugar, are part of tagine in northern Africa and South Asian savory meat stews. The vegetable is high in vitamins C and A, fiber, potassium, and is a natural diuretic.

Rhubarb probably originated in Asia; some varieties were used in Chinese folk medicine as far back as the Han dynasty. It arrived in Europe in the early 1600s and came to America a century later with British and German colonists. It did not become popular until sugar became relatively inexpensive in the 1800s. In England it is often combined with ginger; in America, with strawberries.

Strawberries have grown wild in temperate climates in the Americas, Europe and Asia for thousands of years. Native European varieties are smaller than those found in the west. The cultivated berries we’re familiar with were created in France during the 18th century by crossbreeding a large Chilean berry with a North American variety. Today, there are more than 600 varieties.

These bright red first fruits of summer are the most popular of all berries. Naturally sweet, they’re low in calories (just 50 in a whole cup)! They’re a superfood: Loaded with antioxidants, high in vitamin C, and a good source of fiber, folate, potassium, magnesium, iodine, vitamin B5, B6, K, folic acid, riboflavin anthocyanins and ellagic acid (an anti-cancer compound).

Try to get organically-grown, local berries whenever possible for the best quality, because strawberries are highly perishable and will lose flavor when refrigerated. Unlike some other fruits, they will not continue to ripen after being picked The season lasts only a few weeks, and the berries don’t keep long, so freeze some for winter use. Sure, you can buy California berries in the supermarket most of the year, but they don’t taste the same as locally grown ones.

The berries’ intense flavor will dilute when you immerse them in water, so the best way to clean them is to rinse quickly, then pinch off the stems and caps with your fingers or a paring knife.

Strawberry Rhubarb Smoothie

This easy, nutritious drink is refreshingly cool on a hot summer day. You can also eat it in bowls, with croutons or noodles, as a cool summer “soup” for lunch or dessert.

Ingredients:

1 cup apple juice

3 stalks rhubarb (about 1 cup sliced)

1/2 cup sugar (or half sugar, half splenda)

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

1 quart strawberries

2 bananas, peeled and sliced

1 cup plain yogurt

Additional strawberries and optional sour cream, for garnish

Directions:

Slice and wash rhubarb. Stem and clean the berries.

In saucepan, combine sliced rhubarb, apple juice, sugar, and cornstarch. Bring to a boil, whisking, and cook for one minute to blend ingredients. Cool.

Pour the cooled mixture into the blender. Add remaining ingredients. Blend for about a minute, until smooth. Pour into glasses or bowls. Serve chilled. If serving as soup, serve with croutons or noodles. Garnish with additional sliced berries and dollops of sour cream.

Easy Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

A traditional part of New England cuisine and a common spring delicacy throughout the Appalachian region.

Ingredients:

2 cups rhubarb (just one stalk)

3 cups strawberries

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup minute tapioca

1 prepared pie pastry (9-inch size, bottom and top shells) or 1 package ready-to-use pie crust

Directions:

Remove ends from rhubarb; wash under running water and slice in 1/8″ or 1/4 inch slices until you have 2 cups.

Hull berries, rinse, and halve or quarter if large.

Combine rhubarb, berries, sugar, and tapioca in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425F.

Line a 9″ pie plate with one crust. Place filling inside crust. Cover with remaining crust. Crimp edges to seal. Cut a few slits in top crust to allow steam to escape.

Bake 40 – 45 minutes until top is brown.

Allow to cool before serving. Serves 6 – 8.

Quinoa Salad with Rhubarb and Strawberries

Ingredients:

Dressing:

3 or 4 fresh, ripe berries

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

pinch of black pepper

2 or 3 teaspoons olive oil

Salad:

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

2 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced

2 stalks rhubarb, thinly sliced (2 cups)

About 2 cups fresh spinach, chopped or finely torn

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 pint strawberries

Directions:

Rinse quinoa with warm water and drain. Pour rinsed quinoa into a non-reactive pan (not aluminum, iron or copper) and heat over low heat to roast, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Add 2 cups water, stir, and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer. Add 1 cup thinly sliced rhubarb. Cook, covered, until all water is absorbed; this should take about 12-15 minutes.

While quinoa cooks, prepare the dressing. Mash strawberries well with a fork. Stir in vinegar, salt and pepper. Add olive oil in a slow stream, mixing until well blended. (You can also use a mini blender to blend all the ingredients).

Toss the cooked quinoa and rhubarb with this dressing, and mix well to coat. Stir in remaining ingredients: Remaining stalk of rhubarb, spinach, feta, and sliced berries. Mix well. Chill. Use a few more berries for garnish.

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Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: Writing and cooking. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on X: @yvonawrites.

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