Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Last Shabatt we went to the desert. Deep down and through the giant Makhtesh Ramon we drove, and we found delightful flowers on our way. The rain was overall very scarce this year, and the desert stayed harsh and dry and blooms much less than in years of plenty of downpour, so the treasures we found were even more appreciated.
                               Desert Tulip (צבעוני המדבר)

                             Two flowered tulip (צבעוני ססגוני)

But this time we came to the desert with a special purpose. It was to find the very rare wild rhubarb. Rheum palaestinum, (ריבס המדבר). It grows only in the hills of the Negev Desert and near Eilat, and blooms in March and April. An uneven, winding and rocky road leads to Arod, the location near a wadi where a small population of the rhubarb can be found. It is easy to travel  there with a jeep, which we don't have - but somehow we managed to get there with our normal car. (Over hill and over dale we hit the dusty trail.) :-)
I remember rhubarb cake from childhood. With meringue on it. And delicious rhubarb compote for dessert. And I can relive the joy just enjoying the stalks, together with my sister, dipping them in sugar and crunching on them down to the last bit, happy with the sweet and sour taste. For more than thirty years, since living here in Israel I did not see cultivated rhubarb, neither growing in gardens, nor to buy at the markets. A friend from Norway sent me some seeds. I tried twice to grow them, but with no success. The seeds germinated but then the little plants wilted away. 

After we arrived at the rhubarbs we could see all their stages of growth. From the closed bud, which looked somehow like a big egg, and then the split open "shell", till the full blossom of the flower.

The leaves are of a strong dark green hue, and huge and wrinkled, their edges bend downwards to the ground.  Such big leaves are very unusual in the hot desert. Normally the plant leaves there are small to minimize perspiration. In the case of the rhubarb, the large leaves bent to the ground serve as a clever irrigation system. They collect the rain and dew drops in their many crevices, and tunnel them to the roots. 

The high stalks covered with hundreds of little flowers of a fierce red/orange color and similar to tiny bells before they open, push through the earth in the middle of three leaves. This remarkable extraordinary and very impressive plant stands out from the monochrome landscape in a very pretty way. It is endemic to the Negev Desert and the Sinai.

The Bedouin tribes use parts of the plants as medicine. The Hebrew name of the rhubarb "ribas" originates from the Persian language. In German it is called "Rhabarber" and here is  something funny to amuse my German friends.

All photographs taken by my husband Uri Eshkar.
Please zoom in.


Beate said...

Hallo Yael,
das ist wieder einmal höchst interessant. Der Rhabarber, den Du aus Mitteleuropa kennst blüht ja weiß und wächst am besten auf nährstoffreichem Boden (in Kompostnähe). Darum ist ein Wüstenrhabarber umso erstaunlicher. Die rosarote Blüte ist ein echter Farbklecks. So schön!

Lieben Gruß

Bob Bushell said...

Beautiful images of the RHUBARB cake.

Lisa Zinza said...

absolutely amazes me! wild tulips! they are so vivid and beautiful ... the top photo is almost surreal .. like you photo shopped them in ... wow! ... and... wild rhubarb... amazed again! it is a rugged plant! I do love rhubarb and have an excellent bunt cake recipe .. if you ever want it!

thanks for the share.. I always learn something new.. you are such a fun person! I love that you truly embrace life!!!

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm Rhabarberkuchen lecker.....

Dawn of LaTouchables said...

Oh Yael, the best marmalade in the world is rhubarb and strawberry, and in my mind the best tart is one made with vanilla pudding, a puff pastry, and rhubarb on top. I LOVE rhubarb!

Uri's photos are exquisite, and I can just imagine how wonderful (and a little bit scary with that normal car) being up in the fields was.

wanda miller said...

OH WHAT A POST. (i forget to come here with fb so available)my mother and i in our family were the ONLY ones to relish rhubarb. thank you for showing all the stages of this luscious plant, i never knew it was so beautiful. and URI'S photos are stupendous! we are all so glad you braved the countryside in your normal car...lucky us along with you. xo

Eva said...

Großartige Bilder. Auch von den Tulpen. Als zweijähriges Kind habe ich mir öfter einen Rhabarberstengel aus dem Garten geholt, um mal was Saures zu haben, was ich liebte und wohl auch brauchte, was es aber bei Tische nicht gab, denn meine Mutter hasste Saures. Also deckte ich meinen Bedarf eigenhändig.

Irmtraud Kesselring said...

Liebe Yael,
wir nehmen es so hin, wenn der Rhabarber im Garten wächst. Wir backen unseren Kuchen.
Aber der Wüstenrhabarber ist etwas ganz Besonderes. Schön, dass du ihn uns gezeigt hast.
Einen schönen Restabend wünscht dir

Sacramento Amate said...

Thank you so very much for the present of your wonderful pics, dear Yael

Mary Stanley said...

Beautiful photos as always! Love to come along on your adventures to new and different locations.
My grandmother made rhubarb pie long ago...I miss it and will have to try making it myself one of these days. love to you!

Tammie Lee said...

such beautiful and to me exotic flowers you share. how wonderful that you have fine memories of rhubarb!
thank you for sharing.

stardust said...

Hello, Yael, I was intrigued by the landscape of red tulips in the rocky desert (the first photo) – so exotic and beautiful. Wild rhubarb is also new to me, I like the purplish pink flowers. Nice to hear about your sweet memory about rhubarb.