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Fresh Picks: Rhubarb

Each week, we'll tell you the freshest thing to taste from Colorado farmers and chefs. 

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We hope you’re hungry!

This summer, we’re highlighting a must-eat-right-now ingredient every week. First up? Rhubarb, that delightful harbinger of warm weather and fresh produce. Visit 5280.com/freshpicks2015 every week for tips on which ingredient you should be growing, buying, cooking, and tasting—all season long.

Rhubarb | Family: Polygonaceae

From the Farmer: “I have about 500 plants and it is not enough,” says Wyatt Barnes, owner of Niwot’s Red Wagon Organic Farm, who explains that demand can easily surpass a rhubarb harvest. If you really adore the veggie (which masquerades as fruit in sweet dishes), Barnes suggests planting an established root in your yard. You won’t be able to pull stems—the leaves are not edible—from the plant during the first year, but after that “you’ll have more than enough” crop to satisfy your rhubarb cravings.

Good for You: A 100-gram serving will load you up on 37 percent of your daily value of vitamin K, which is handy in blood clotting and bone health. Watch out, though, because while rhubarb is a low-calorie treat, recipes often weigh this sour ingredient down with too much sugar. (Here’s a fine solution to that conundrum.)

At the Market: Rhubarb’s growth is most robust in the spring, but the plant can be harvested throughout the summer. Look for stiff stalks that aren’t too “spongy” (an attribute most likely found in the fall when the plant starts to shut down for the year).

Around Town: Order Potager’s chilled rhubarb soup with Ugly Goat Dairy chèvre flan. The starter is gorgeous with tart soup and an almost cheesecakelike flan topped with strips of pickled rhubarb. Tip: The dish could also easily stand in for dessert.

In Your Kitchen: Don’t confine this veggie to sweet desserts (although we love us some rhubarb crisp). This riff on a traditional coffee cake offers just the right amount of sour and sweet to pair ideally with a morning latte. Pickled rhubarb is delightfully versatile: Eat the stalks as an appetizer or dice and toss in a salad for a tart crunch. If your sweet tooth is demanding, try this recipe for rhubarb cream popsicles, which transforms the flavors from a classic recipe—rhubarb cream pie—to a frozen treat. If you’re having trouble deciding, mix up a Rhubarb Whiskey Sour Cocktail on page 158 of the 5280: The Cookbook and ponder your options; you can’t go wrong.

Follow Fresh Picks each week on 5280.com or on Pinterest.

Follow senior editor Natasha Gardner on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.

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