Narration and photos by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir.
Rhubarb is one of the few vegetables that grows effortlessly in Iceland and for that reason it used to be a highly-valued addition to the traditional diet of fish and lamb.
Rhubarb stew and soup was a welcome treat in summer and rhubarb jam was considered an inseparable part of the Sunday roast. Rhubarb jam is the key ingredient in some typical Icelandic cakes, like randalín and hjónabandssæla.
Children often took rhubarb from gardens, peeled the stalks and then dipped them in sugar after every bite.
After more exotic fruit and vegetables became available and affordable in Iceland, people became become less fond of the rhubarb which loyally appears in almost every garden across the country after spring thaw and continues to grow throughout summer.
Rhubarb stew is an excellent dessert, fresh and fruity, and late June is a good time to harvest the vegetable while it is still juicy.
Pull the rhubarb up with the roots and then tear off the triangular leafs. Then wash the stalks and cut off the roots. Some people use the white roots to make jelly.
It may sometimes be necessary to peel the rhubarb, but usually it can be cooked with the red peel, which gives the rhubarb stew a more interesting color.
Cut the stalks into bit-size pieces and put them into a casserole. For 200 grams of rhubarb, half a liter of water is required and one deciliter of sugar (one tenth of a liter).
Bring to boil. Then lower the heat and stir regularly. Gradually the rhubarb will become softer and eventually (after about 20 minutes) resolve into a stew. You may want to add a mixture of potato flour and water to thicken it.
Rhubarb stew can be served either hot or cold. A dash of cream makes it even better. For less traditional versions of rhubarb stew, try adding apples or figs.
For rhubarb soup, add more water, and for jam, add more sugar and boil for a longer period of time. You can also sieve the brew and make rhubarb juice. Bits of rhubarb with sugar strewn on top make an excellent ingredient for pie.
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This multimedia slideshow was originally published in June, 2008.