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Mark Moriarty: Rhubarb season is upon us – and it’s short, so make the most of it

This vegetable – yes, vegetable – is responsible for some of my formative food memories

This week I’m focusing on one of our short-lived seasonal delights: rhubarb. It starts appearing in mid-February, often with early crops force grown under lights indoors, depending on weather. The season can run into late summer, although the larger thick stalks can become woody and slightly bitter in taste. While it might seem like a fruit, it is in fact a vegetable.

Some of my earliest food memories are sprinkled with rhubarb. Let me explain. Maureen McHale ran the playschool behind my house when I was a kid. She was a wonderful lady who put manners on us long before they were in fashion. Her end-of-terrace house was framed with large evergreen trees, a garden that felt as expansive as Croke Park to me at five years of age.

Apart from Snowy the rabbit, whose house was the garden centrepiece, one of the standout memories from that time, for me, was the forest of rhubarb that would grow there as the weather got warmer. On occasion, Maureen would take us out of the classroom and into her kitchen. Fairy cakes were the business of those days, always finished with cream and rhubarb jam. The excitement of bringing our creations home to show off to family and friends was palpable, a feeling that resonates to this day, albeit with slightly higher brow food going out to paying customers.

It is only on reflection that I realise the impressionable moments we all have growing up, have a knock-on effect on our decisions. Maureen introduced us to a simple food chain and kick-started a lifelong obsession with food, which brings us back to rhubarb.


First up I’ve a recipe in honour of Maureen, rhubarb and almond breakfast muffins. They’re really simple to put together, brilliant for everything from lunch box fillers, WFH lunches to post-gym breakfasts. Based on the principle of banana bread, the chunks of acidic rhubarb laced through the mix balance out the sugar, and flaked almonds are never a bad idea. These can also be frozen and reheated in a microwave. For someone who is always eating on the move, I find these always fill the gap without compromising on flavour.

Here, too, is my version of a classic rhubarb crumble. The twist involves adding a touch of orange zest and grated fresh ginger to the rhubarb compote, a combination I picked up years ago while working at The Chart House in Dingle. That was paired with a sweet rosemary ice cream, a stellar pairing but not one for today. While a crumble may be simple in appearance, I honestly think it is one of the best ways to showcase this humble vegetable, and who doesn’t love breaking through that sweet crunchy topping?

Recipe: Rhubarb and almond muffins

Recipe: Rhubarb, orange and ginger crumble with Greek yoghurt