Cooking / Gardening / Kodiak, AK

First Rhubarb: My excuse to dream up a new recipe

Red rhubarb stalks

In coastal Alaska, it’s traditional to celebrate the season’s First Salmon, usually around May 15. Well, we live in coastal Alaska (and love salmon), but we celebrate another  “first”: The First Rhubarb. And such a momentous occasion deserves a new recipe, don’t you think?

Red rhubarb stalks

First Rhubarb! A cause for celebration.

It just so happens that for this season’s “first pick,” we had rhubarb-loving, B&B guests from the Carolinas staying with us. They told us a story about how a future daughter-in-law loved rhubarb and that the best way to make a good impression was to make a rhubarb custard pie.
“We hit every store in the area, dozens of them. No luck. We finally settled on a package of frozen rhubarb. It was better than nothing.
“The pie turned out okay, but there’s nothing like the real thing.”
In my opinion it’s unfortunate that anyone should live in a part of the world where you can’t grow rhubarb.
For this year’s celebration, we decided to share the first pick with our Carolina friends, by creating a new recipe: Whole wheat muffins with rhubarb, apples, fresh grated ginger, and teff. (More on teff later). As you’ll see, it’s actually two recipes: The first is a multi-purpose muffin mix and the second one is a variation on the theme.

Whole Wheat Muffin Mix

This is a fabulous mix–a kitchen staple–that I depend on for most of my muffin (sweet or savory) and quick bread recipes.

Rhubarb muffins in a muffin tin

A new recipe in an old muffin tin. Love it!

4 cups whole wheat flour
4 cups all purpose flour
1-1/2 cups nonfat dry milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup baking powder
1 Tbl salt
1-1/2 cups butter or shortening
In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. Then using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter or shortening until the mixture is crumbly like coarse cornmeal. (Tip: It’s easier to cut shortening into half the amount of dry ingredients. Once the mixture is crumbly, add the rest of the dry stuff). Store mix in an airtight container, in a cool, dry place. Makes about 14 cups.
TO USE: Measure 4-1/2 cups mix into a bowl. Add 1-1/4 cups water and a beaten egg. For sweet muffins, add 4 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Bake muffins at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Makes 14-18 muffins.
To make Rhubarb-Apple Muffins: Add 4 tablespoons sugar to the batter then fold in 2 cups chopped rhubarb, 1 cup chopped apple (don’t bother peeling), and a healthy tablespoon of orange zest. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar before baking.

Rainbow appears over Kodiak, Alaska garden

Rainbow over the  garden in Kodiak, Alaska.

By the way, if you don’t know what teff is, make friends with it. As the traditional grain of Ethiopia, it’s gluten free, has a mild, nutty flavor and very nutritious. It’s great added to oatmeal, stews, pilaf or baked goods. Cooked whole grain teff is great on its own. You can add teff to veggie (and regular) burgers, cakes, rice, muffins, cookies and breads. Toasted, sprinkle it on yogurt and custard.

Thanks for visiting, and Happy rhubarbing!


  • daryleone
    May 24, 2015 at 8:40 PM

    Hi Marion,
    Once upon a time I went to a ‘pot luck’ supper for UVM Extension Master Gardeners in September. I brought two incredible strawberry-rhubarb pies. They disappeared like a magician’s rabbit. Neither strawberries nor rhubarb are plentiful in the fall in Vermont. I found some great frozen strawberries, but no rhubarb was to be had. Soooo … I used Polygonum cuspidatum, the dreaded invasive better known as Japanese knotweed. It’s the purplish bamboo-like weed growing near many streams and waterways in many parts of America. Choose the 6 to 9 inch, young shoots that are still tender and pretend they are rhubarb. Like I said … disappeared like a magician’s rabbit.

  • Velda
    May 23, 2015 at 9:19 PM

    Grew up eating rhubarb pie and for breakfast rhubarb sauce. Need to learn to make a gluten free crust so I can eat rhubarb pie again! ?


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