simply rhubarb pie

simply rhubarb pie
Enjoy this tart-sweet summer treat for a limited time!

We lovingly craft this traditional American pie with our buttery, freshly milled, whole grain double crust and a simple filling of fresh, seasonal Michigan rhubarb and a bit of sugar, using as little as possible so the tart-sweet flavor of the rhubarb really sings! Serve this tasty pie with a nice dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla gelato from Zingerman’s Creamery. It’s available at the Bakehouse’s Bakeshop, Zingerman’s Next Door Café, next to the Deli, and at the Roadhouse. Get it while you can because the pie goes on vacation when the local rhubarb crop runs out.

Some “Pie Plant” history

Native to central Asia, rhubarb has roots dating as far back as 2700 BCE in China, where it was cultivated for medicinal purposes. From China, rhubarb later made its way to Russia, via the Silk Road, and from there went west into Europe. Used widely in European pharmacy throughout the 17th century, rhubarb eventually became a popular food plant, thanks to the British and French. They were the first to discover that the plant’s petiole, or stalks, were edible and could produce a tasty sauce or filling for tarts and pies. Rhubarb, on its own, is incredibly tart and requires some kind of sweetener, so it’s no coincidence that its culinary usage coincided with the more widespread availability of sugar, once a luxury only available to the wealthy few.

Culinary rhubarb crossed the Atlantic to North America in the late 1700s, when an unnamed Maine gardener introduced the plant to Massachusetts growers with seed he had obtained from Europe. Its popularity quickly spread throughout New England and then on to the Midwest territories with the settlers. By 1829, rhubarb appeared in American seed catalogs; it was being sold in produce markets; and its use as a culinary staple for jams, sauces, preserves, and especially pies, was rampant, earning it the nickname “pie plant.” Well suited to its cultivation, both in terms of soil and climate, Michigan has been one of the largest producers of field-grown rhubarb in the United States for decades.

Fruit or Vegetable?

Botanically speaking, rhubarb is a perennial vegetable that’s rich in fiber and antioxidants. Known for its reddish stalks and tart taste, it may surprise some to know that rhubarb belongs to the buckwheat family, Polygonaceae. Here in America, most folks consider rhubarb’s petiole, or stalk, a fruit. In fact, in 1947, the U.S. Customs Court in Buffalo, NY made the designation official, ruling that rhubarb should be considered a fruit since it is used typically as a fruit would be. Whichever way you lean, there’s no denying rhubarb’s incredible culinary versatility and that it makes one fantastic pie!
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