Rhubarb is truly one of the most reliable harbingers of the season. It’s not until Mainers see the first mound of ruffled, elephant-ear-like leaves sprouting out of unpromising-looking hard ground, that we can believe that spring is actually on its way.

Once rhubarb’s unique tart and acidic qualities are muted by sweetening and the application of heat, its flavor is surprisingly delightful. It used to be prized for its medicinal qualities, and to me eating rhubarb in the spring still feels like a tonic and reward for enduring another Maine winter.

Rhubarb can be baked into pies and tarts, made into cake or coffee cake, or preserved in some way. Here are two outstanding and simple rhubarb preserves, one sweet and one savory.


Rhubarb varies in sweetness. Red stalks are sweeter than green, so you may need to adjust sugar amounts accordingly. Spread this conserve on cream scones or toast for a rare treat.

Makes about 1½ cups.

3 cups thinly sliced rhubarb

1 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon finely chopped crystallized ginger

In a medium saucepan, combine the rhubarb, sugar and lemon juice. Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil, reduce the heat, and simmer uncovered over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the rhubarb breaks down and the sauce thickens, 10 to 15 minutes. (Conserve will thicken as it cools. If it’s too thick, stir in a bit of warm water. )

Stir in the ginger. When the conserve is cool, store in a glass jar or plastic container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.


Delicious with roast or grilled lamb, pork or chicken, this relish is also great layered on a meat or cheese sandwich.

Makes about 1½ cups

¾ cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ pound rhubarb

2 tablespoons slivered onion, cut ¾-inch long

In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, ¾ cup water, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until sugar and salt dissolve.

Slice the rhubarb lengthwise and then cut into ¼-inch pieces. Add the rhubarb and onion to the saucepan, return to the boil, and cook for 10 seconds. (Longer cooking will break down rhubarb; for this relish you want more or less firm, intact, pieces.) Remove from the heat, cool to room temperature, and transfer to a jar or plastic container. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving. (Relish will keep in refrigerator for at least 2 weeks.)

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Chowderland: Hearty Soups & Stews with Sides and Salads to Match.” She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at:


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