Selection:  Choose thick, firm stalks with no wrinkling or other signs of drying.

Storage:  Refrigerate fresh rhubarb in a plastic bag for up to three days.  You can also chop rhubarb, place in a heavy-duty zip -top plastic bag, and freeze for up to eight months.

Preparation:  Trim and discard any leaves - the leaves are toxic.  Wash stalks just before using.  Rhubarb is almost always cooked - usually with a good amount of sugar to tame its sour taste.

 

Gingered Rhubarb Chutney*

1 cup packed brown sugar

3 cups finely chopped rhubarb (1 lb.)

1 cup finely chopped red onion

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup raisins

1 T. minced peeled fresh ginger

1 teas. paprika

1/2 teas. salt

1/8 teas. ground cardamom

1/2 jalapeno pepper, minced

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer 35 minutes or until thick.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

*Chutney a combination of fruit, spices, vinegar and sugar comes in a variety of flavors and spice levels, from mild to very hot.  Chutneys are served on the side to accompany assorted curry dishes, or with cold meats - much the same ways as you'd use pickles or herb jellies. They are condiments. Toss in a spoonful or two of chutney into a meatloaf or meatballs just for a flavor change, or you can add some to a gravy for the same reason. Use chutney with roast pork instead of apple sauce; with lamb instead of mint jelly; with turkey instead of cranberry sauce; with chicken nuggets instead of ketchup or sweet and sour sauce; with ham instead of mustard.

Here are other ways to use chutney:

Pour 1/4 cup over a block of cream cheese and serve with crackers or cocktail bread slices.

Mix 1 tablespoon into a mild vinaigrette for an exotic twist on the same old salad dressing.

Stir 1/4 cup, or more to taste, into a pot of plain rice for a surprisingly yummy "pilaf."

Dress up any deli sandwich with a tablespoon of chutney spread on the bread in place of other condiments.

Mix half mayonnaise and half chutney for a condiment alternative. (Terrific on hamburgers.)

Toss 1/4 cup with steamed broccoli, carrots or green beans.

Serve with baked sweet potatoes, to taste.