Vegan Rhubarb Crisp (with GF option) & My Rockwell-esque neighbourhood.

As a young child I was very lucky to live in an almost Norman Rockwell-esque neighbourhood.  Everyone knew everyone else, and folks did chat with one another while hanging their laundry on the line.  The neighbourhood was composed of almost exclusively blue and white-collar families, and most everyone had a picnic table, plastic kiddie pool and a swing set.  Indeed,  everyone seemed to either have young children tearing down the gravel alley on their bicycle, or older kids who would obligingly babysit the little ones for pocket-money.

Growing up, just about everyone in that neighbourhood had rhubarb growing in their gardens.  Even families who didn’t have a proper vegetable garden seemed to have a bushy showing of rhubarb in the corner of their yard.  Since fresh fruit seems to be the siren song all children heed, these acidulate stalks weren’t safe for long as our little group of “neighbourhood kids” always seemed to find our way into everyone’s yard, obeying an almost primal instinct to “help ourselves”, whether we’d been invited or not.

With the exception of an elderly neighbour or two who weren’t particularly keen on having a motley crew of 7 or 8 kids stomping their tulips or mussing their lawns, most families didn’t seem to mind our hostile take-overs, and in fact most of the time an adult would open the screen-door to turn on the garden hose to rinse off the fruit, armed with a tiny Tupperware container filled with sugar.

Sugar? Why yes, for dipping of course!

This was pretty much the only way I’d eaten rhubarb, raw and dipped in a little sugar, until I reached my teens when rhubarb cake and crisp made  it into the family’s dessert repertoire.  We’d since left that special neighbourhood in search of home to house our ever-expanding family, and with that came a much bigger back yard complete with a large vegetable garden and, you guessed it, a whole mess of rhubarb! All that fruit meant that simple munching on stalks wouldn’t be enough.

Crisps have always seemed so magical to me because of the elegant simplicity.  With just a few ingredients and mere moments of preparation you have a delightful, seasonal treat.  This basic recipe would make Mister Rogers proud with its whole wheat flour and reduced sugar, but it’s pretty lovely.  The aroma of the freshly sliced rhubarb brought all those memories back for me, so I’ll share a bit of crisp with you!

Vegan Rhubarb Crisp

Most any crisp recipe can easily be made vegan. Simply replace the butter with non-dairy butter.  Make this crisps gluten-free by using barley or oat flour (be sure to check that your oats and oat flour are GF).

For the filling :

  • 500g or 5 cups sliced rhubarb
  • 55g or 1/2 cup organic sugar
  • 2 tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Combine everything in a large bowl, stirring well to coat.  Set aside.

For the crisp :

  • 60g or 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 95g or 1 cup whole oats
  • 55g or 1/2 sucanat
  • 110g or 1/2 cup vegan butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg

Combine everything in a bowl, using your fingers until it resembles wet sand.  Pour the fruit mixture into a shallow baking dish, then sprinkle the crisp topping to evenly cover.  Bake at 175c or 350f for about 30 minutes (more depending on how thickly the rhubarb has been sliced).  Let cool completely and serve with vegan ice cream or whipped cream.