Before rhubarb slips back into its roots for the year, try this bright, tangy picnic-ready fruit salad!Rhubarb, as we know, is the season’s first “fruit.” Except it’s not a fruit at all, but a bright green and sunset red streaked stem with bushy leaves. The leaves are toxic, and not for eating. But at some point in the history of humankind, an adventurous cook discovered that if the stems were boiled down they would turn into a tangy, sweet sauce – even better with a generous pour of honey, maple syrup or sugar. And so, the dawn of rhubarb pies emerged. We’ve also learned that rhubarb and strawberries are destined to be together, and any combination of the two – sorbet, pie, sauce – sends our bodies reeling with delight.
I remember my mamma telling me that as a child, she and her brothers would snack on raw stems dipped in sugar, but I never believed it could actually be good. The stems are so acidic! So it wasn’t until a trip to Top Chef Stephanie Izard’s Girl and The Goat that I first discovered “macerated” rhubarb. Macerating essentially means “marinating,” except for with fruits instead of vegetables or meat. When fruit is macerated, it is often soaked in sugar or a simple syrup. Mamma’s favorite macerated fruit salad is strawberries with lemon juice and sugar, mixed hours ahead of serving and left to settle in the fridge.
I was inspired to make this Rhubarb & Watermelon Fruit Salad by a recipe in Gabrielle Hamilton’s cookbook Prune (there’s a theme here with kick-ass lady chefs!). She makes a simple syrup with lime and sugar, and serves it alongside fresh, cold cubes of yellow watermelon.
This sparked my hunger for a honey and lime simple syrup to temper the rhubarb’s acidity and meld the flavors with the watermelon’s sweetness and natural juices. So before rhubarb retreats back into the earth, make this salad in a jiffy and bring it to the next party!
Look for rhubarb at your CSA, a local farm stand or farmers market. The supermarkets should also carry it this time of year.
A bright, tangy and honey-sweetened salad that you'll want to pass around in one jar, with umpteen forks.
- Rhubarb - 1 pound, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
- Watermelon - 2 cups, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
- Honey - 1/4 cup
- Water - 2 tablespoons
- 1 lime - Zested and juiced
- In a large bowl, add the sliced rhubarb.
- Zest the lime and set the zest aside.
- In a small saucepot, bring the honey and water to a simmer until it is full incorporated. Squeeze the juice from the lime into the simple syrup. Continue to simmer until it is reduced by a third in volume.
- Pour the simple syrup over the rhubarb and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.
- When ready to serve, cube the watermelon and toss in with the rhubarb. Toss in the lime zest last.
- Serve in a bowl or pack in jars for easy transportation to your favorite picnic spot.