Spring Tonic | Zehnder's of Frankenmuth

Spring Tonic

Executive Chef John Zehnder, CEC, ACE, HGT, AAC

Each season has its own unique fruits and vegetables. As a chef, I encourage folks to eat seasonally as nature intended us to do. In my mind, there’s something not right about eating strawberries, tomatoes and corn on the cob in January and February. In spring, we think about fresh asparagus, morel mushrooms, strawberries and the crowning jewel; RHUBARB. The Chinese used rhubarb over 4,000 years ago as a spring tonic because rhubarb has both a laxative effect and a high concentration of vitamin C. From China, it was introduced to Siberia and then to Italy, thanks to Marco Polo. While he was the U.S. Ambassador to France, Ben Franklin discovered rhubarb and brought back seeds to the United States in 1772.

Don’t know if they still do, but when I was a kid we’d pull our rhubarb stalks with leaves still attached and chase each other around the yard, whipping each other with the leaves. After a few minutes, usually when my mother would yell at us to stop, we’d cut off the leaves, get a bowl of sugar and dip the stalks in it, chewing until our mouths puckered. In the culinary world, we have foods that we call companion foods. These are foods that just naturally go together and compliment one another. The combination of strawberries and rhubarb is a match made in heaven! I think God had something to do with it since both ripen at about the same time.

Here’s a perfect example of that combination, Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler from my heirloom recipe dessert cookbook; “From Grandma With Love”. This particular recipe dates back to 1912. Click here to purchase the cookbook.