This is a light and refreshing early summer treat and a novel way of using rhubarb. It’s very light and low in calories (even if you do add the coconut garnish). No added sweetener is needed when you presoak the rhubarb as directed. Thanks to the agar agar, it will gel at room temperature, while kuzu starch improves the texture. Speed up the process by refrigerating. Always store leftovers in the refrigerator.
Strawberry/Rhubarb Vegan Gelatin
Yields 1 oblong glass dish
- 3 c. diced rhubarb
- 16 oz. strawberries
- 1 qt. fruit juice (R.W Knudsen’s pineapple coconut juice works well)
- 2 tsp. agar agar powder*
- 1 Tbsp. kuzu root starch*
- 1/4 to 1/2 c. toasted coconut
Bring 3 cups of water to boil, remove from heat, add rhubarb and cover; let stand for 5 to 7 minutes (per the information below, to remove oxalic acid). Drain rhubarb and set aside. While rhubarb is soaking, wash and remove leaves and stems from berries and slice.
Combine room temperature or cold fruit juice, agar agar and kuzu starch in an unheated pot. Let stand for a couple of minutes before stirring and heating over medium heat. Bring the solution to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until agar grains have dissolved and solution begins to thicken slightly.
While the fruit juice solution is heating, preheat the oven to 250º F. Toast the coconut on a cookie sheet for about 15 minutes—this is just enough time to enhance the natural flavor without darkening the coconut. Cool.
Place rhubarb and berries in the glass dish and pour fruit juice solution over top. Stir to evenly distribute. Place on a rack to cool and set. After 10 minutes, sprinkle the coconut on top.
*Available in health food stores or from Macrobiotic suppliers.
Rhubarb is the taste of the country to me. Its tart, old-fashioned flavor brings back childhood memories. Rhubarb grows abundantly with very little human input–pesticides aren’t required so it’s a safe bet for the chemically sensitive. Well rotted fertilizer added around the base of the plant in the early spring will yield thicker stems. But then there’s that irritating oxalic acid and the copious sugar in most recipes that discourage many from using it.
As I grew health conscious I was determined to find other ways to enjoy it apart from traditional recipes. The presoak in this recipe removes a large part of the oxalic acid and some of the sour taste making less sweetening necessary. It also tenderizes the rhubarb just enough without making it mushy. So you can use the presoak and proceed with your favorite family heirloom recipe, if you like, with a decrease in sugar and possibly less baking time.
Wash and cut the rhubarb stems. Always discard or compost the leaves–they’re toxic if eaten. For every cup of sliced rhubarb stem, you’ll need 1 cup boiling water. Bring the water to a boil in a covered pot, drop the rhubarb in, remove from the stove, cover and let stand for 5 to 15 minutes—the larger the pieces the longer the soak. Test a piece to make sure it’s tender enough for you—over soaking will make it too mushy and lose the tart flavor. Drain the water off and discard. Proceed with your recipe.