Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Great Debate

Is rhubarb a fruit or a vegetable? That was among the thought-provoking discussions we had around the breakfast table this past weekend. Jill, Eric and Kinley were visiting, so I made Rhubarb Muffins with Cardamom Crunch Topping.
Kinley wisely chose to stay out of the debate. 

For the record, rhubarb is a perennial plant that is now classified as a vegetable, though it's used most often as a "fruit" in recipes. Technically, it's more herb than vegetable or fruit from what I could learn from an internet search. Until the 1940s, it was considered a vegetable in the U.S. It was reclassified as a fruit when U.S. customs officials, baffled by the food, decided it should be classified according to the way it was eaten.

Jill doesn't ever remember me using rhubarb in a recipe before. I'm a little surprised by that, but I may be guilty as charged. I don't know why, since I have good memories of my Grandma Neelly's rhubarb pie and Randy's Grandma Ava's Rhubarb Crisp.

After my guests left, I pulled my tried-and-true 4-H recipe box from the cupboard and dug through the handwritten recipes.
Not the actual recipe, but it shows my lovely recipe box!
There was one that I'd labeled Ava's Rhubarb Crisp and another was Rhubarb-Pineapple Crisp. Both have a buttery, oatmeal and brown sugar topping. And, I must admit, it's been years since I made either one of those recipes. I think both Grandmas had rhubarb in their gardens, so using it for springtime desserts was a practical - and tasty - choice.

I don't know why it was that I clicked on A Farmgirl's Dabbles' recipe for Rhubarb Muffins. Maybe it was those Grandma memories when I had my own granddaughter coming to visit. Then I saw that Smith's Market in Hutchinson had "homegrown rhubarb" advertised on a giant sign in their window. So I bought some.

It was a tasty return to rhubarb, I do believe. Enjoy!
I cut the rhubarb finer than this for the muffins. This was just for illustration purposes.
Rhubarb Muffins
with Cardamom Crunch Topping
From A Farmgirl's Dabbles blog
1 large egg
1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/2 c. chopped fresh rhubarb

Cardamom crunch topping:
1/3 c. raw sugar
1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1/8 tsp. salt
2 T. butter, at room temperature (not melted)

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray muffin tins with nonstick spray or use muffin liners. 

Muffins: Mix egg, milk, and oil in small bowl. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir. Do not overmix. (I did overmix, even though the recipe told me not to. The muffins still tasted fine. They just weren't of a suitable quality for fair judging. And I hid the holes under a layer of butter in the photo. True confessions time!) 

Fold in rhubarb. Spoon into muffin tins and let rest a few minutes while you prepare the topping. 
Topping: In a small bowl, mix all topping ingredients, using a pastry blender to combine. Sprinkle mixture evenly over muffin batter. 

Place pan in oven and bake until golden, about 18 to 20 minutes. Let rest in pan for 5 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. The muffins are best the day they are baked, as that is when the topping is the crunchiest (but we liked the leftovers just fine)!

**  I did buy raw sugar to use in this recipe. However, I think you could easily substitute brown sugar. It just might not be as crunchy.  As I said, we liked the leftovers fine. It had good flavor, even though the texture was different the second day.
**  I doubled the recipe and put part in the freezer to use for harvest, knowing that the topping wouldn't be as crunchy. (See above.)
**  Since it's currently available, I chopped up leftover rhubarb and put in it in the freezer for more baking adventures. Maybe I'll have to make Grandma Ava's Rhubarb Crisp the next time Jill comes to call. 

Today, I'm linked to Ashley's What's In Your Kitchen Wednesday. Click on the link to check out what's cooking in other food bloggers' kitchens.


  1. I've always loved rhubarb & can't wait to try these muffins. They sound really good.

    1. We liked them. They weren't overly sweet, though the topping helped give them a little more sweetness. Hope you enjoy them, too!