Real Food

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Rhubarb is a confusing plant. It looks like a vegetable, but is cooked as a fruit. Tasted alone, it is unbearably bitter. So where does rhubarb fall in the botanical spectrum? The origin is traced over 2,000 years ago to Asia where it was initially cultivated for medicinal qualities.[1] In China, the roots were dried and pulverized to treat ailments, while the plant was commonly used as a laxative to treat indigestion.[2] The medicinal use for rhubarb continued in Europe until it was discovered that the petioles (leafstalks) were edible and even tasty when cooked properly.

In the 19th century, the Victoria variety caught the British by storm. It was easy to grow, consistently tender, and reliable.[3] The obsession began. Rhubarb was used for jam, jellies, pies, custards, puddings, and fools (see below for Rhubarb Fool). It wasn’t long until rhubarb made its way across the Atlantic. 

Established as a vegetable, from the genus Rheum, rhubarb was reclassified by US custom officials in the 1940s as a fruit, under the auspice that it should be categorized according to consumption. In actuality, the change took advantage of lower tax rates and shipping laws. Interestingly, rhubarb is still classified as a fruit in the United States today.

The classification of rhubarb as fruit or vegetable is less important than taking advantage of its spring flavor. The season is short, and time should not be wasted on debates. Rhubarb is a treat to be savored, and I have been working on a variety of recipes to use it in both respects—as fruit and vegetable. 

Fruit Oriented Rhubarb Recipes

Pies, tarts, and crisps are rhubarb classics. This year, I’m attempting to be inventive with rhubarb to consume less sugar. One of the most balanced dessert recipes that I have discovered is Rhubarb Fool, a throwback from 1830s Britain. 

Rhubarb Fool Recipe


• 2-1/4 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
• 1-1/4 cups sugar (or less depending on taste)
• 2 cups nonfat vanilla yogurt
• 1/2 cup whipping cream


1. Combine rhubarb and sugar in a large saucepot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until mixture has consistency of apple sauce (6-8 minutes) while stirring occasionally. Chill the mixture for about one hour.

2. Fold rhubarb mixture into the yogurt and swirl in the whipping cream. Cover and refrigerate for 1-6 hours. 

Vegetable Oriented Rhubarb Recipes

Finding alternative (non-sweet) uses for rhubarb has proven challenging. I look forward to experimenting in the next few weeks and adding to my repertoire. I love rhubarb pie and sweet treats, but seriously, there must be other ways to consume this vegetable (dare I even say it). In this search, I have discovered an interesting Middle Eastern spinoff recipe for lentils (dal) and rhubarb from Mark Bittman. The rhubarb adds a lemony zest and fleshy texture to the stew.


Dal & Rhubarb


• 1 cup dried lentils
• 2 tbsp minced ginger
• 1 tbsp minced garlic
• 4 cardamom pods
• 1 tbsp mustard seed
• 2 cloves
• 1 tsp cracked black pepper
• add alt to taste
• 2 tbsp butter (optional)
• garnish with cilantro


1. Combine all ingredients except salt, butter, and cilantro in a saucepan. Add water to cover and bring to a boil. Adjust heat so mixture bubbles gently, cover partially and cook while stirring occasionally. Add water as needed and cook until lentils are tender (about 30 minutes). Lentils should be saucy, not soupy.

2. Remove cloves and cardamom pods. Stir in butter if using, adjust seasoning and garnish with cilantro. 

Drinkable Rhubarb Recipe Ideas

Rhubarb can be infused with alcohol or made into simple syrups for mixers. Again, more sugar! The simplest infusion that I enjoy is fresh-diced rhubarb in water. Freeze slices of rhubarb to add to summer lemonades, tea, or water for a refreshing treat.



[1] The Rhubarb Compendium

[2] Rhubarb Information

[3] Rhubarb: A Love Affair

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Radish Kimchi 

Radishes are the red and white stars of my spring pickling classes. If you have more radishes in your garden than you can eat, or if you are just looking to try something new—I say pickle them! Not convinced? Here are five reasons radishes are to be fermented.

1. First to harvest = First to ferment. The cheery round Cherry Belle radish or the longer oblong heirloom French Breakfast radishes are harbingers of the coming garden season. I know people who hardly eat radishes but plant them just because they delight in radishes’ quick growth in the cool beginnings of the waking garden. 

2. Radishes can be your starter pickle. Never fermented before? Maybe you have been hearing the rumors of how good fermented vegetables are for you. Guess what? Now that the energy of the growing season is bringing new crisp vegetables to the market, it’s time to try. Radishes are easy to pickle or ferment, even if you’re brand new to fermenting.

3. Radishes are incredibly healthy—especially in the spring when our bodies are rousing to their warm-weather selves. Eastern medicine sees radishes as a spring tonic; you can link to a little more about that and a recipe for a Spring Radish and Fennel Ferment.  A few other radish benefits are that they help with respiration and ridding our bodies of cold symptoms. They are high in Vit. C (even higher after they are fermented.) And they are calming on the digestive system since fermented probiotic-rich foods are also soothing—it stands to reason fermented radishes are a 2-for! Indeed a good gut choice. 

4. Fermenting radishes offers variety. While we think of radishes as having strong flavors, in fermenting they act as a base to whatever flavors you can dream up. If you are a kimchi fan, you probably know most kimchi recipes contain radishes.  Did you also know they can be sliced thinly and fermented as fermented radish salad?—yup here is another plug for the radish and fennel ferment. And if you like your radishes plain, simply fermenting them in a brine gives you pickles that are cheeky little bite-sized orbs of effervescence that can be popped straight into your mouth.

5. Fermented radishes are tasty I encourage you to try fermented radishes at least once even if you don’t particularly like radishes. It can be a surprise how much the flavor changes. For example that mustardy hot bite mellows out so much that it is often gone. 

Cubed Spring Radish Kimchi Recipe

Makes a little less than 1 quart 

This recipe is based called Kkagdugi, a common traditional kimchi. Kkadgugi is usually made with Korean radishes, which are much like a daikon.  I have enjoyed this type of ferment with a variety of radishes. The large daikon should be cut into cube shapes; small round radishes make little half moons.

• 1 pound globe-type radishes, quartered if small, chunky slices if larger
• 1 teaspoon unrefined fine salt
• 1/3 cup Korean red pepper powder, or 1–2 Tablespoons hot chile flakes (see note)
• 3 scallions, sliced crosswise in ½ in pieces, include green
• 3–4 cloves garlic, minced
• 1/2 teaspoon sugar, preferably unrefined
• Optional: 2 teaspoons pickled baby shrimp from Asian market

Variation: When fresh radish tops are available it is wonderful to add in a few of the tops, minced. Watercress is a traditional addition. Add about ¼ cup chopped greens.

Prepare the radishes, add salt and pepper powder and mix until coated. Massage a bit to help the brine begin to form. Set aside. Prepare the remaining ingredients and add to mixture. If using pickled shrimp, finely mince the shrimp and add some of the liquid when measuring the 2 teaspoons. Massage the entire mixture.  Taste; add salt if needed. You should be able to taste the salt (like a chip) but it should not be overpowering. You should have a brine developing.

Follow the instructions for putting the kimchi mixture in your favorite fermentation vessel. If you don’t have one, put the mixture into a quart mason jar pressing out air pockets as you go. Wipe any excess off the sides of the jar with a clean cloth or paper towel. If you have small weights put them on the ferment. Screw a lid tightly on the jar.

Put this in a corner of the kitchen to cure. Watch for air pockets forming in the kimchi. If you see them, open the lid and press the kimchi back down. If the lid starts to bubble up, simply open the lid for a moment to “burp” the ferment. Remember, this process is anaerobic.

Allow to ferment for 10–14 days. During storage, the less airspace above a ferment, the longer it will last, so fill the jars to the rim and transfer the ferment to smaller jars as you use it. This ferment will keep, refrigerated for 6 months.

Note on pepper powder: This recipe calls for the Korean-style pepper powder found in Asian markets. Look for powders with little or no added ingredients. The one that I get does have some added salt, which I adjust for by tasting when using in recipes. If you cannot find the Korean-style chile powder, use chile flakes. They are often hotter than the traditional pepper powder, so you will use much less.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



Eugene at TLW

Can a consumer culture lead us toward health and abundance? In all major United States cities there are areas that look like emerging ‘third world’ neighborhoods. Abandoned homes, where land is overgrown and houses are falling apart, closed businesses, deteriorating schools and jobless, homeless residents. This situation is created by a complex combination of factors and it most often leads to crime and violence. How does the consumer driven local food movement touch those of us living and serving in these places under police terrorism and economic apartheid? As an urban farmer for over a decade, from California to Georgia, I have been present at countless conferences and meetings promoting local organic food access.  What does food access look like in an area that is subject to police curfew or martial law?

Right now in our nation's cities we continue to experience state violence perpetrated on people of color and urban residents who are economically imprisoned within a social status based on deliberate under investment. Many of these areas are within the same zip code as neighborhoods slated for ‘urban renewal’. Is there a connection between the instigated uprisings and looming re-development plans?

I have witnessed community gardens and farmers markets used as tools to begin the process of changing a community. The outcome of this transformation often depends on who are the stakeholders directing the change and where is the source of the support for the garden, mini farm or farmer’s market. What we see in Atlanta is that gardens and markets initiated and controlled by community members in the neglected communities in Southwest Atlanta receive very little support from funders and advocacy groups. While gardens and markets in the very same neighborhoods are funded, staffed and promoted when they are installed by outside foundations and management groups. In both cases local food is being grown and marketed to ‘underserved’ communities of color. But in the case of resident lead efforts there is little support and no protection when faced with eviction or ‘redevelopment’.

Nationwide there are far more consumers than producers in the local food movement. Many consume more than fresh grown produce. The foundations and advocacy nonprofits often represent consumers of communities, consumers of funding and ultimately they consume the attention and potential of the people to achieve self reliance. My focus is in production. Increasing production in these areas that are targeted by mandates from foundations to increase food access primarily with methods that offer economically stressed residents yet another option to shop. My team and I work with residents to train them to grow the best food with agro-ecological methods for themselves and possibly begin to sell our produce on the other side of town to restaurants and chefs that pride themselves on serving the best local food. Perhaps this is why our model of a ‘grower lead’ collective is ignored by funders and resisted by well paid executive directors of consumer driven local food organizations. Still, we welcome the opportunity to share our views and experiences on a national scope in the network of MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

We are committed to a local food revival. We value food sovereignty above food security. Food security is typically the organized distribution of packaged, processed and canned foods through food banks to systematically poor people in areas where there is simultaneously tremendous potential for local production. Our residents and volunteers are drowning in fast food swamps and suffocating from police warfare. For our communities food access is crucial at this moment when suburban commuters are circling, waiting to descend and colonize closer to their downtown jobs. This same access will be even more critical if and when the next police murder of unarmed citizen sets off a pre-calculated uprising that is used to justify martial law. During these explosions do the trucks continue to drive in and stock the supermarket shelves? When stores are looted and burned down are their owners still compelled to rebuild and continue to serve the abused, angry residents fresh local produce? While Whole Foods proudly publicizes their feeding of the national guard in Baltimore who will feed the innocent families caught in the political power play? Is this an orchestrated land grab?

These questions motivate us to encourage all residents and groups interested in creating urban local food systems to look closely at land issues. If we are not in a position to purchase land in our neighborhoods, than a good first step toward food sovereignty is to partner with faith based institutions that own land around churches and mosques. Create the urban gardens and mini farms on these properties in cooperation with the membership. This strategy offers stability as you learn the skill of growing and develop a plan for buying land in the future. As growers increase production we naturally become a powerful voice in the food justice conversation. It is the producers that influence and educate the consumers. As our produce is served across town and across our dinner table our opinions gain potency and our movement toward food abundance gains momentum.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Regrow Lettuce

If you are like me, you love nothing more than a delicious salad of fresh greens. However, organic lettuces can be expensive and highly perishable when purchased regularly. An easy and cost-effective way to enjoy the greens you crave is to regrow romaine lettuce indoors from its head after harvesting its leaves. Here's how:

To Re-Grow Lettuce:

1. Find a container narrow enough to hold the lettuce head upright, yet deep enough to support its growth. I picked up a narrow, long container from a craft store so that I could place a couple heads of lettuce in a row. For one head, a wide-mouth pint-size mason jar should work well.

2. Make sure your romaine head is cut down to its base, with only about three inches remaining.

3. Place your lettuce in its container with enough water so that only about an inch of the plant is uncovered.

4. Place plant near a sunny window.

5. Change out the water every couple of days or so, and the plant will be ready to harvest in about three weeks.

Several romaine heads can be re-grown at once. If you eat a lot of salad, having a collection of four-six romaine plants would be great. Enjoy the beauty of the plant as it grows, as well as the nutrition it promises. 

Coming from Monica Sharrock: How to Regrow Green Onions.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


japanese knotweed 

Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum or Fallopia japonica) is an invasive wild plant that is also a versatile ingredient, but only during the few short weeks of spring when it is tender enough to bother harvesting.

This plant was originally introduced to North America by the horticultural industry as an ornamental because its fast-growing, jointed stalks form attractive colonies that are reminiscent of bamboo. Like bamboo, the stalks are hollow except at the joints, but that's where the similarity ends.

Japanese knotweed stalks are speckled with red (or sometimes entirely red) and have papery sheaths at the joints. Often compared to rhubarb, Japanese knotweed does have a similarly tart flavor but also strong earthy green overtones. Like rhubarb it is crunchy raw but quickly cooks down to a soft, pulpy mass. It is good in both savory and sweet recipes.

When the plants first emerge from the perennial roots in early spring, they shoot straight up. As they get taller, the stalks begin to zig and zag at the joints, eventually branching and becoming as high as 8 feet tall.

The leaves are smooth-edged and shaped like a gardener's trowel. When the plants finally flower, the cream-colored flowers are in clusters and become aerodynamic seeds that spread far and wide, carried by the wind.

The root systems are massive, like huge clumps of twisted driftwood. Even a small piece of a Japanese knotweed root left in the ground will generate a new plant. That fact, plus those wind-born seeds, is why this is considered a dangerously invasive plant. It will quickly crowd out slower-growing plants trying to survive adjacent to it. You don't have to worry about over-harvesting this one!

Japanese knotweed contains the antioxidant resveratrol, the same substance that makes red grapes (and wine) useful for preventing heart disease. The root is harvested commercially in Asia for its medicinal benefits.

But for food, it's the young stalks that you want. Harvest them when they are still tender enough to snap off with a clean break without needing to use a knife. Here's a short video that captures the satisfying "pop" sound Japanese knotweed makes when it is harvested at the right stage.

Once you've harvested tender Japanese knotweed stalks in early spring, give them a soak in a sink full of water. For some reason, ants love Japanese knotweed but this preliminary soak will get rid of them.

Very young Japanese knotweed stalks don't need to be peeled. Try stripping off a bit of the skin of the stalk: if it strips off easily, then the skin is tough enough that it's worth removing it. If it's hard to peel because the skin is too thin, don't bother.

You can freeze Japanese knotweed without blanching it first. It will keep well, frozen, for at least six months.

hummus-filled knotweed 

Hummus-Filled Knotweed Snacks

Raw Japanese knotweed stalks have a celery-like crunch, but also a pleasantly sour taste that kicks up the lemon flavor of the hummus.

1. Choose tender, young Japanese knotweed stalks that are at least 1/2-inch in diameter. Remove any leaves, wash, and then peel if necessary.

2. Cut the prepared knotweed stalks into 1-inch lengths. They will look like short tubes.

3. Use a table knife to fill first one side and then the other with hummus (homemade or store-bought). Serve immediately, or refrigerate, covered, for up to 3 hours.

Leda Meredith is the author of Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries. You can watch her foraging and food preservation videos, and follow her food adventures at Leda's Urban

Homestead. Her latest book is Preserving Everything: Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke...and More.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


sourdough potato bread

Recently we had a bout of cool, stormy, spring weather. Cool weather always makes me hunger for homemade bread, particularly sourdough bread. And since my foodie grand-daughter and I had recently made a beautiful batch of sourdough carrot bread, the starter was bubbling away waiting for a new creation.

There are a few breads that I make over and over; Sourdough Oatmeal and Greek Country Bread come to mind. But usually I like to experiment and try something new. So this time it was light sourdough potato bread. Like most potato breads, this one was soft and moist but it also had a nice crusty surface. The sourdough starter added tangy flavor that usually isn’t present in potato bread.

How to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter

There are many ways to make a sourdough starter. I personally prefer to use the method found on my website Make Your Own Sourdough Starter. Over the years Mother Earth News has published several articles about making your own sourdough starter, including Creating Homemade Sourdough Bread From a Starter Mix, and a previous blog post, A Beginner’s Guide to Sourdough. No matter which method is used, your starter will eventually be populated with the local wild yeasts found in your particular geographical area. You may start with a dried starter purchased on your San Francisco vacation, but after a few weeks that starter will be less San Francisco sourdough and more Peoria sourdough or Austin sourdough. That isn’t a bad thing. San Francisco may be famous for their sourdough breads, but I guarantee that your bread will be delicious too.

Sourdough Potato Bread Recipe

• 1 large Russet potato
• 2 tbsp melted butter
• ¾ cup potato cooking water
• 2 cups sourdough starter
• 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
• 2 ½ cups Kamut flour
• 1 tsp salt

1. Peel and dice the potato. Boil until tender. Drain and reserve ¾ cup of the cooking water.

2. Mash the potato and let cool to room temperature.

3. In a large bowl or a stand mixer bowl combine the cooled potato, butter, cooled cooking water, and sourdough starter.

4. Stir in the flours and salt. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes, adding more flour if necessary to prevent excess sticking. The dough should be soft and somewhat sticky. Be careful not to add too much additional flour, you only want enough to make the dough manageable.

5. Form dough into a ball, place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, 2-4 hours. Gently deflate dough, shape, cover and let rise another hour.

Note: I shaped my loaf into a round and let it rise in a brotform, but it will work well in a traditional loaf pan too. The soft dough does need some sort of structure though, so it will not work well to let it rise in a free-form shape.

6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Slash the top of the loaf and bake on a hot stone for 40 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 205 degrees.

7. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!

Renee Pottle is an author, Family and Consumer Scientist, and Master Food Preserver. She writes about canning, baking, and urban homesteading at Seed to Pantry.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



Tostones, or twice-fried plantains, are a crispy and delicious taste of the tropics.

While there’s a lot to love about Texas cuisine, I often miss the flavors of South Florida, where my husband and I spent the first two years of our marriage.

The Miami area blends cultures and cuisines with an extra helping of tropical flair. From Haiti to Puerto Rico to Cuba, twice-fried plantains under some name are a tropical standard and one of my favorite Miami memories.

At most of the restaurants we went to, these savory treats were called tostones. Made from green or not-too-ripe plantains (similar to large, starchy bananas), tostones make a great side to serve with a big bowl of beans for a casual dinner, or a perfect snack to serve with your favorite tropical drink.



• 2 green or light yellow plantains (avoid those with many black spots, as they will be too ripe)
• Peanut oil (or another oil suitable for frying)
• Half a lime
• Salt


1. Near your frying space, set up a cooling rack over a rimmed baking sheet and line with paper towels if desired.

2. In a large, heavy-bottomed sauté pan or cast-iron skillet, heat about 2 inches of oil to 300-320 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. While the oil is heating, use a chef’s knife to slice off the ends of the peels of both plantains, then cut each plantain (through the peel) into 1 ½-inch chunks. For each chunk, cut down the side of the peel from top to bottom (cutting completely through the skin), and then remove the peel.

4. Fry the chunks (in 2 batches), turning with heat-proof tongs as necessary, until light golden all around.

5. Use the tongs to transfer the chunks to the prepared cooling rack as ready. Adjust the heat of the oil as necessary to keep the heat between 330 to 325degrees Fahrenheit.


6. Transfer the fried chunks to a cutting board and use a flat-bottomed drinking glass to smash each chunk to a ¼-inch-thick disk.

tostones smash

7. Allow the oil to come up in temp to 320 to 340 degrees.

8. Fry the disks in batches until dark golden and crispy.

9. Transfer the tostones to the prepared cooling rack as necessary, seasoning immediately with a few drops of lime juice and a good sprinkling of salt.

Tostones are best if eaten soon after frying, either on their own or with a simple dipping sauce of  pureed garlic and olive oil.

Morgan Crumm is a mother, blogger, recipe-developer, and real-food advocate based in Dallas, Texas. More of her work can be found at Being The Secret Ingredient, a blog about food, life, and love.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

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