A female friend and I were discussing poop on Facebook today. Oh, don’t worry, it was nothing distasteful. We were chatting about the best muck to use to fertilize rhubarb.
As she keeps horses she has nothing but praises for the equine droppings to which she has immediate access. Not having animals, though she has offered to share her poop, as it were, I have to content myself with commercial access to animal effluvia. But I do know about the virtues of right off the farm stuff.
I once upon a time had my own animal excreta (which still makes the best fertilizer of all, vastly surpassing in virtues all commercial chemical stuff. You see, I had chickens, and you might think my tale here is just ‘chickenshit’, and indeed it is. When I cleaned the henhouse of droppings, old straw and stuff I ended up with rhubarb you practically had to attack with a chainsaw. It was brilliant.
But, speaking of rhubarb, it’s a strange foodstuff. How did somebody first decide the thing was edible? It is, in its natural state, kind of vile and nasty. Though when I was a child I knew a girl who sucked on rhubarb stalks. Mind you, this same girl used to eat lemons, too.
But to consume it it must be sweetened and then it can be turned into wonderful pies (I make a to-die-for rhubarb meringue) or crisps. There is also good old stewed rhubarb which makes a decent laxative. The leaves, however, are highly toxic. A story, perhaps apocryphyl says that during World War One ration-challenged UK housewives were exhorted to boil up rhubarb leaves and serve them as a cabbage substitute, and families began dropping like flies so the advice was withdrawn. The leaves, however, are not toxic to ants and they crave them for their formic acid.
So, what is rhubarb, a fruit or a vegetable? I have no answer for that, but this year’s crop is coming along nicely and that is all that counts for me. I want to make a pie.