THE STALK OF THE TOWN

Posted May 05, 2009, at 8:55 p.m.

Praise to you, lowly rhubarb.

Green- and red-stalked denizen of backyards, cousin to buckwheat and sorrel, second cousin to cactus, carnation and, yes, the Venus’ flytrap. Native to Asia, brought to America in the 1820s, you flower worldwide each spring in great abundance, much to the chagrin of gardeners and landscapers.

Who was it that first saw your potential? What caused that person to cut your fibrous stalk, marry you to loads of sugar to tone down your tart temperament, and pair you with strawberries, apples or ginger, thus revealing your inner beauty? Like the lemon before it’s lemonaded, or the potato sans butter and salt, it is only in your coupling with complementary foods that you start to shine.

Those brave cooks who take you on know you won’t prove them wrong, whether it’s jam, pie, tart, salsa, cake, muffins, wine, pudding or chutney, or dressed up with pork, chicken or beef. When your season arrives, as it has now, let the cooking begin.

For the month of May, rhubarb is the star, and at the Bangor Daily News, we’re looking for our readers’ favorite concoctions for our Best Rhubarb Recipe Contest, which kicks off today and runs through May 20. A team of judges will pick the best sweet and the best savory recipe from your submissions.

The contest guidelines follow. Good luck, and happy rhubarbing!

· Bring your dish to the Bangor Daily News offices at 491 Main St., between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Monday, May 18, or Tuesday, May 19, or between 9 a.m. and noon Wednesday, May 20.

· The limited hours are so that we can ensure that everyone’s concoctions are fresh and tasty for the judging. However, use your own judgment — if you’re submitting a jam or sauce or something that will keep for a while, Monday will be fine. If you’re bringing in a dinner dish or a pie you just baked, shoot for Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning.

· Label your recipe with your name, address, phone number and e-mail address, and whether it’s sweet or savory. Include the entire recipe, and include any pertinent information about its origins (the cookbook you got it from, for example, or whether it’s your grandmother’s recipe, etc).

· Don’t bring, for example, two dozen muffins or an entire quart of salsa. Keep in mind that there are three judges and a small handful of reporters and photographers who will taste your recipe — and they’ll all be trying multiple items for the competition. Four or five cookies or one small container of sauce should suffice.

· Judging will occur Wednesday evening, and we plan to publish the results in the Saturday, May 23, edition of the Bangor Daily News. The winners will have their recipes printed in the paper.

· Any questions? E-mail Emily Burnham at eburnham@bangordailynews.net, or give her a call at 990-8270.

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