This year my prickly rose put on an amazing show (the best one yet). Alberta natives would recognize this as the Alberta Wild Rose. These roses actually grow wild in forests, ditches, alleys – pretty much everywhere. They smell absolutely wonderful, which was originally why I had planted mine, but they also produce rose hips that can be used for a wide variety of purposes. The hips from these particular roses are used in preserving (jams, jellies, syrups), in teas, and for medicinal purposes (treating a sore throat, acting as a natural laxative, preventing urinary tract infections, and treating headaches and dizziness). If you’re lazy like me, you can just leave the hips on the plants and the birds will eat them during the winter.
The only real downsides to this rose is that the blooming time is pretty short and the plants grow extremely tall. Mine is about 8 feet tall now and I am actually considering cutting it down quite drastically in the fall. I had a bit of an adventure last weekend when I decided to tie the branches with some twine and staple that to my fence in an attempt to control it a bit – it is at the back of my yard near the back gate and my husband was being attacked by it every time he would walk by to and from the parking spot in the alley. I made the stupid mistake of not wearing long sleeves or leather gloves because I didn’t realize how painful the branches would be and I also thought it would be a 3 minute job. Wrong. So so wrong. Trust me, wear long, thick sleeves and some leather gloves if you’re going to handle this plant. It really, really hurts. I’m planning to keep the painful branches when I cut it back and throw them onto a raised bed during the winter so the neighborhood cats won’t be tempted to use it as a litter box. And although these grow fairly tall, they do not spread and I haven’t noticed any suckering with mine.
I’ve already said that these roses smell absolutely wonderful, but there really is no way to describe it. This is definitely one of those plants that I smell and immediately think of childhood summers, especially right after it has rained and they’re still damp. Tell me about the plants that give you that reminiscent feeling.
Rhubarb is one of my favorite things in the spring time. This is the first year that I’ve had a real good harvest from my rhubarb plant. The first year and second year it was in a raised bed but I ended up moving the bed last year in order to make space to build our greenhouse, so the plant got moved to a different location in my yard – which was actually a good thing because it was a better area. I harvested a few stalks last year but I didn’t want to put too much stress on the plant, so it was mostly left alone. But this year it was an absolute monster, which is basically what you want your rhubarb plant to be.
Growing rhubarb is really simple and the plant will last for many years (I’ve often noticed rhubarb plants in front of abandoned farm houses where any other evidence of a garden is long gone). I don’t do much with my rhubarb plant except top dress with a little compost in the spring or fall and cut off any seed heads that pop up. My only advice is to give your rhubarb plant a very big area to grow – mine is about 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide.
Rhubarb plant as of June 23, 2014
Usually I just turn the rhubarb into a sauce for topping vanilla ice cream – simmer chopped rhubarb with lots of sugar and a little bit of water in a pot on the stove until the sauce has thickened (about 20-30 minutes) and store in a glass jar in the fridge for up to a week. Sometimes I take a little bit of the liquid from this recipe and use it as a syrup for adding to fizzy drinks like ginger ale. But this year I decided to try some new recipes – and also I’ve been getting more into preserving the last few years. I cannot rave enough about blogger and author Marisa McClellan. I discovered her blog www.foodinjars.com just over a year ago and immediately bought her first book Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round. The reason I love it so much is for 3 reasons. 1: I haven’t found a bad recipe in it. 2: Small batches! Perfect for a family of two. 3: It is organized by season which the obsessive organizer in me loves. This year she just put out another canning book which I am also in love with called Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces. And this is where I tried two of her recipes. The first was for a rhubarb and rosemary jelly and the second was for a rhubarb chutney.
Rhubarb & Rosemary Jelly and Rhubarb Chutney
Both of these preserves are amazing and go so well with some fancy crackers and fresh soft goat cheese. The recipes I used were from the book but I found similar recipes on her website which sound delicious as well: Marisa’s Rhubarb Chutney recipe can be found here and her recipe for Rosemary Rhubarb Jam can be found here.
What are your favorite rhubarb recipes? I would love to know!