Raw rhubarb! My Turkish friend and food journalist Ayfer Unsal described observing people in eastern Turkey purchasing wild rhubarb stalks from a wagon, stripping back the threads, then munching on the stalks as though they were ribs of celery.
Ayfer watched these raw rhubarb eaters closely to see if their mouths puckered in reaction to the intensely tart rhubarb juice. This didn’t happen. Later she learned that the rhubarb stalk seller had sprinkled some salt on the stalks to soften their sour flavor, just the way one tempers radishes or onions. When she ate a stalk herself, she found it was refreshing and intensely pleasurable. Ayfer decreed it a “great Turkish springtime snack.”
A year ago I asked an Iranian taxi driver if people ate raw rhubarb in his part of the world. “Yes, indeed they do!” he said. He gave me the following delicious recipe of thin slices of raw rhubarb tossed with arugula and cucumber. I particularly like the last minute addition of fresh mint.
The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen by Paula Wolfert. Copyright © 2003 by Paula Wolfert. Photographs copyright © by Christopher Hirsheimer. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.