Rhubarb grows like crazy throughout the upper Midwest—in long, tidy rows on rural farms, in ruffled red and green clusters by barns and backyard fences, and in scrappy patches at the edges of alleys. Wherever it grows, it grows in abundance. Midwestern homesteaders dubbed it “pie plant” and revered rhubarb for its thrillingly acid flavor. The allure of rhubarb is timeless. We modern-day Midwesterners still revel each spring in the arrival of this vegetable whose vibrant crimson stalks we treat as fruit.
There is always pie, but this Spring there’s also an incredibly beautiful Rhubarb-Hibiscus Conserve. Last week, our friends at Pond Hill Farm in Harbor Springs harvested 1400 pounds of their field-grown rhubarb for us. Less than twenty four hours later it was simmering away in our copper kettles. We macerated chopped chunks of this lovely rhubarb in Michigan beet sugar and combined the resulting juice with a tea made from dried hibiscus flowers to create the ruby red syrup in which the delicious chunks are preserved. Hibiscus and rhubarb share a similar tartness, but while rhubarb has a bold, flashy astringency, hibiscus is much more subtle, with lovely floral undercurrents that soften and mellow the sharp acid of our puckery pie plant.
Our Rhubarb-Hibiscus Conserve captures the first harvest of the season in all its zippy, zingy wonder and enhances it with the lingering floral notes of tropical hibiscus. It’s wonderful with freshly whipped cream or triple crème brie, and best of all, it marks the beginning of another summer filled with the exceptional fruits of this special place.
Available online now and in stores on Monday.