Category Archives: Rhubarb

Only Child on green thumbs

Front view from the veranda late spring

Front view from the veranda late spring

I come from a long line of gardeners – my late mother, her mother and father, my godmother, my godfather. Many cousins of my generation seem to have inherited this green thumb.

Are green thumbs hereditary? And where the heck does the term “green thumb” originate?

Two stories on the latter one. The most common is that back in the days of King Edward 1 of England, green peas grew in profusion in the King’s Garden. He loved the taste of green peas and had a number of serfs constantly picking them as they produced. That much pea-picking temporarily turned the serfs’ hands green. And legend has it that the King awarded a prize to the serf whose thumb was the greenest.

Now I wonder, if this is the origin of prizes for garden shows – not just flowers, but vegetables.

The other possibility is something that also happens – if algae has formed on the outside of earthenware pots, handling the pots a lot can make your hands turn green.

So, today, a gardener who creates a garden that grows flowers, herbs, vegetables, seemingly with little effort, is referred to as having a green thumb. Whether the thumb actually turns green or not depends – on what the gardener is doing or if he or she is wearing gloves.

And yes, I have a green thumb. With me it is part hereditary and part environment. As a child I used to pick raspberries, currants, strawberries and plant vegetables such as beans, carrots, and yes, peas. I don’t recall if mother ever had green-coloured hands. She did pick horrible green tomato worms off the tomato plants, put the worms in a can, come to the side door and show the worms to me.

Yeck! No wonder I wasn’t too fond back then of collecting the tomatoes. Now, it is a different story. I watch tomato plants more than the racoons in the area, looking for blossoms, then green tomatoes forming, turning yellow and finally red. Right now the Tiny Tim tomato in a pot on my patio (and the pepper plants in pots too) has blossoms. I’m hoping the ones planted right in the garden will soon do so as well. However, they were planted a few weeks later thanks to too much rain the first part of June.

When I look at my garden I see that my late mom and I share what we plant and planted. No currants here but there are raspberries (although mine are wild black and hers were the ever bearing red ones), peas, beans (still just plants), carrots, onions, and rhubarb. I even have a few strawberries forming on a few of the plants my next door neighbour Phil gave me when he was removing them from their garden. I’m hoping the birds, squirrels, racoons, and insects leave me the strawberries. So I watch the strawberries a lot, too. And then there are the rosebushes, which grow prolifically, mainly in the front yard, but one white rose bush grows tall in the backyard.

You gotta believe that heredity has something to do with this.

Take a look for yourself. Today I am posting my Gardening Page live on this blog. I will add/change photos and text from time to time. Just click on “Only Child’s Garden” at the top left of this blog.




Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Gardening, Hereditary, Only child, Rhubarb, Weeding

Only Child saves sanity through creativity

Edge of Only Child’s fall garden facing the street.

After my take on irresponsibility and sleep-walking through most of last week, I finally “woke up” Friday. The last residues of it all got blown away in the wind when I hit the gardening ground running this weekend. Then I took it inside to the kitchen.

We had a warm Sunday and first part of Monday, so I raked and swept leaves, cut off  the messy dead leaves from some perennials going into winter dormancy – hostas, day lilies and peonies, brought in some flowers – yes a few of those still around– pansies, chrysanthemums, lamium, and leaves with berries from the euonymus shrubs. Then I took it indoors – floral arrangements for the front hallway, kitchen table and kitchen windowsill. I also planted seeds indoors in pots for cinnamon and lime basil. I have some potted plants that you don’t usually bring indoors, but I did a few weeks ago – a tomato plant and pepper plant – both are still getting blossoms turning into cherry tomatoes and peppers, a lobelia  (annual) still flowering, and a dianthus (perennial). I carried on this indoor gardening into today and along with what was already there (coleus, African violet, Christmas cactus which believes Christmas is in November for flowering, jade, aloe vera, etc.) my indoor garden “centres” in the livingroom and bedrooms are growing (pun intended).

Sure, I had to pitch a few dead plants outside , but they taught me – when something is dead, bury it and move on. So, I’m trying to do that with friends’ betrayals, irresponsibility, etc.

My creativity continued with cooking (even dessert – I seldom make dessert from scratch, but this time did a rhubarb crisp from garden rhubarb frozen). And I did a few twists on some main courses. Today, I’m making soup for supper.

Doing all this creative stuff calmed me and filled me with hope for the future. It also cleared my mind. So did hibernating somewhat this weekend – only one phone call and a few emails, with the only “trips” away from home to get groceries or go for a walk – sometimes combined.

I don’t recommend being a permanent recluse – but the occasional getting away from the madding crowd can put things in perspective and kick-start you.

Now, I’m revved up for rewriting more in my novel, promoting my short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point and editing clients’ manuscripts.

That doesn’t mean I forget about cooking and gardening and even cleaning the house. It means putting what you do in balance, including figuring out what is important. Obviously, some of the stuff I blogged about last week isn’t at the top of my list anymore.


Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Balance, Gardening, Gardening health benefits, Healing through gardening, Home and Garden, Indoor Gardening, Only child, Rhubarb, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child loves rhubarb

Rhubarb - not from my garden or Mom's but from Arthur's clip art online. See blog roll for website

Rhubarb follows me around. Maybe it’s in my Mommy genes. Mom grew rhubarb the width of her garden. I grew rhubarb in my Aurora garden until it dwindled from neglect. Rhubarb is in my Toronto garden – although not in its original place on the far side of the house. With the help of a neighbour, it got moved to the main garden area in the backyard – more sun and it’s in my face so I have to pay attention.

But except for the eating, what I do with my rhubarb is way different from what Mom did. One of her “processing tools” scared me so much I had to come up with something simpler and safer. As I write in my memoir:

The pressure cooker and a big blue-and-white speckled canning pot are steaming on the stove. Both contain water that would boil over in hell, but Mom is preparing to create her version of heaven – rhubarb and strawberry jam. I feel like the angel earning her wings as I hover nearby and try to catch her instructions drifting through the steam.

“Sharon, you have to boil the jars first,” she says. “Boil the water first and then carefully put the jars in the pot.” She covers the large pot and the pressure cooker.

I’m still standing away from the stovetop. The pressure cooker terrifies me. It appears like a miniature steam engine puffing away on the stove, and ready to blow up in my face any minute.

“Why isn’t the lid on tight?” I ask, pointing my finger at the pressure cooker, but still remaining a few feet away from it.

“That’s so the steam can get out and we’re boiling the jars to sterilize, not cook them.” She sees me staring at the lids and thick rubber circles lying on the tables. “Those are the ring bands that go around the neck of the jars to seal them.”

“Oh,” I reply.

Mom is using the standard Mason jars, but I remember she took her chances with reusing jars that once held mayonnaise and store-bought jam. After the regular washing in the sink, she gave them the boiled-in-the-pan treatment.

While a whole lot of boiling is going on, Mom opens the stairway door and retrieves a basket of strawberries and rhubarb from the steps. She carries it into the kitchen, dumps the fruit into the triangular-shaped colander in the sink, and runs water over it. She pulls out a couple of sharp knives from a drawer and goes to work on the ruby sticks. She hands me the paring knife to prepare the strawberries.

“Don’t slice them across the top like that. You’re missing some of the berry. Dig in with the tip of the knife and then put it under a bit and lift up the leaves. Here, Sharon, I’ll show you.”

I let her finish as chopping doesn’t appeal to me. Neither of us has any clue that in less than a decade, Mom’s fingers will be too curled and swollen from arthritis to chop the meat on her plate, let alone fruit for jams. All the plans and prayers in the world won’t change this from happening. 

But right then, I’m waiting for those jars to sterilize so I can do the real cooking – the rhubarb and strawberries. When the jars have boiled to safety, Mom removes them and stands them up on the small kitchen counter by the sink. She pours the water into the sink and when the fruit is sliced, she dumps it into the speckled pot. I stir it with the wooden spoon. The steam rushes into my face and I don’t mind that it mixes with the summer heat in our non-air-conditioned kitchen. I can see the hard rhubarb slices dissolve to shreds; then the strawberries go soft. Mom mutters something about pectin to thicken and sugar to sweeten and both land in the pot. I pay no attention to amounts; just keep stirring round and round inside the pot.

“Is it ready yet, Mom?” I ask.

“Give it a few more minutes.”

More stirring. My right hand feels tired and my gastric juices reach high anticipation.

“It’s got to be ready now, Mom.”

“A few more minutes. Here, let me check if it’s sweet enough.” She takes a spoon from the drawer, scoops out some of the rhubarb strawberry mixture and slides a bit of it into her mouth. “Hmm. Needs a bit more sugar.”

“Let me try.”

“Wait; still needs sugar.” She pours more of the white stuff in, guides my hand in a fast stir, then says, “Ok.” She hands me a clean spoon from the drawer.

I dig the spoon deep down into the pot, but most of what I collect falls off. I open my mouth wide and shove in the spoonful and . . .

“Ouch. That’s hot.”

Of course, not too much makes it into the jars. Mom decides to make rhubarb and strawberry pie and some of the mixture in a jar in the fridge gets spread on toast in the morning for her, Dad and I to gobble down.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford)

Today I  skip the pressure cooker and mason jars. I cut up the rhubarb, wash it, toss some in a pot, add a little water, put it on the stove (medium heat), and stir  off and on until it is soft. Any extra I freeze raw in bags for winter’s use  – just thaw, heat and eat . Or make rhubarb pie or crisp.

Anybody else have some rhubarb stories or recipes to share?



Only Child Writes

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Filed under Fruit, Gardening, Only child, Only child memoir, Processing rhubarb, Rhubarb