Tuesday, March 4, 2014
OH, HOW I WOULD LIKE TO HAVE A RHUBARB CAKE :-)
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.