The Rhubarb Festival began in 2013 to celebrate rhubarb. Suzanne W Pelton, a native of Lenox, grew up eating rhubarb from the back yard: stewed rhubarb and strawberry rhubarb pie. “The fruit (actually it’s a vegetable) is loaded with nutrition (17 vitamins and minerals), is low in calories and high in fiber. Just what we’re being encouraged to eat more of,” she says.
“It just grows in Western Mass. You can’t kill it unless you mow over it repeatedly,” she says. “And it waits patiently to be harvested without getting too big or too tough like cucumbers and string beans. It’s the perfect homegrown vegetable. How is it that cranberries became a national dish but rhubarb made so little impact? I’m learning ways to use it in savory cooking. The rhubarb chili at the Festival is a way to introduce people to that notion. We’ll have a couple of other savory rhubarb items too.”
“Most people don’t make pies anymore,” says Ms. Pelton. “They remember loving their grandmother’s or mother’s strawberry rhubarb pie. As children, they ate stalks of rhubarb dipped in sugar. After the older generation has passed away, they can’t find homemade rhubarb pies. There’s a big hole in them where rhubarb pie is supposed to be. The Rhubarb Festival aims to fill that void.”
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