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Rhubarb Religion May be Genetic

There is no pie in Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks painting, which is why it’s such a desolate image. —Anonymous

Who doesn’t feel happy as they take the first bite of their favorite homemade pie? Science has proven that what we eat plays an important role in our emotions. However, a rhubarb strawberry pie recipe that I included a couple of years ago was a major eye opener. Rhubarb purity is similar to religion for many of our readers, particularly for those raised or still living in the New England states where beautiful rhubarb almost grows wild. Since I try not to repeat mistakes, today’s recipe is for straightforward rhubarb pie.

I suspect the science behind this passionate response may be regional taste tolerance for sour, bitter and savory, versus the passionate preference for sweet and salty common in the southern USA. As would be expected, tolerance and love for all foods hot and spicy seems to be higher in the American Southwest.

For those who passionately love the taste of sweet, rhubarb and strawberries can be a perfect marriage since strawberries provide enough sweet to soften most of rhubarb’s sourness without adding too much white or natural cane sugar, and the cooked textures are similar. For those who truly love the taste of sour rhubarb, adding strawberries seems blasphemous—so I was told by a number of readers after I sent the rhubarb strawberry pie recipe a couple of years ago.

Since food diversity is important to prevent nutritional deficiencies, we strongly recommend developing a tolerance for sour, bitter, sweet, salty, and savory, if you expect to get all of the nutrients you need from food intake.

If time, so fleeting, must like humans die, let it be filled with good food and good talk, and then embalmed in the perfumes of conviviality. —MFK Fisher

Rhubarb pie

Since today’s Tasty Tuesday is about the filling, not the crust, we recommend you use your favorite two crust pie recipe. We prefer crust made with butter, but many pie purists still prefer pie crusts made with lard so use the method that works best for you since they both include some saturated fat, which is far healthier than the trans-fats still found in most all shortening. If hydrogenated oil is listed in the “other” ingredients on the label, that’s the trans fat just under the amount the government requires to prevent having to list it under ingredients on the label.

Rhubarb pie filling ingredients for one pie

6 generous cups sliced fresh rhubarb
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cane sugar or slightly more depending on taste
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, or not, depending on preference


Wash fresh rhubarb stalks and soak in a bowl of ice water before slicing to help maintain beautiful red color. Dry and slice in one half inch rounds and place in bowl with dry ingredients (hold back 1/4 cup dry ingredient to put on bottom pastry layer before adding rhubarb mixture). This helps prevent soggy bottom crust syndrome, too often associated with fruit pies.

Let rhubarb and dry sugar / flower mixture macerate for 15 to 30 minutes to draw out some of the water that too often causes runny rhubarb pie.

Spoon drained rhubarb in pie pan over the bottom crust layer and top with pastry lattice or fancy pie pastry cutouts, as seen in today’s photo.

Glaze with one beaten egg using a pastry brush and sprinkle with cane sugar for beautiful sheen.

Place in 425 degree preheated oven for 15 minutes and reduce heat to 350 for another 20 to 30 minutes until crust is perfectly golden and the rhubarb juice is just starting to bubble over the crust.

Nutritional information

In spite of what you might have heard, rhubarb stalks are not poisonous, but the leaves can be because they are extremely high in oxalic acid. Rhubarb stalks are packed with fiber and vitamins including the B complex and K; minerals including calcium, magnesium, potassium and manganese. It also includes some lutein and zeaxanthin.

Rhubarb is suggested to have many vitally important health benefits associated with digestion and brain, bone and eye health, therefore today’s do over.


Ellen Troyer with David Amess and the Biosyntrx staff

P.S. Some taste tolerance is now thought to be, in part, encoded in our DNA and a single gene, TAS2R38, the bitterness taste receptor on the tongue. We also know taste tolerance is influenced by the womb amniotic fluid and in the flavor of breast milk, both based on Mom’s and probably our maternal grandmother’s diet preferences.

The good news is that over our lifetimes, we can build many complex associations with flavors and scents that can override our DNA taste genes.

For those who might not be familiar with Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, it’s featured below.