- Associated Press - Friday, June 24, 2016

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) - Ask Jeff Van Stratten how much rhubarb it takes to make 1,200 pies, 500 crisps and other tart delights, and he’ll give you a simple answer: More.

Rhubarb tops the menu for Duluth this weekend when the city’s annual Rhubarb Festival begins on Saturday.

Van Stratten has spent the last two weeks traipsing through backyards, picking hundreds of stalks, Minnesota Public Radio reported Friday (http://bit.ly/28UViAm ).

“Sometimes you twist or you kind of pry, give it a little, pop, sometimes they just fall right out,” he said during a day that had him harvesting the century-old rhubarb patch at the Glensheen Mansion, and then driving to the monastery at the College of St. Scholastica, where the nuns promised him prime pickings.

All of the rhubarb stalks go to self-described “church basement lady” Char Juntunen, who oversees a kitchen full of volunteers at First Lutheran Church, washing and chopping rhubarb, making jam and baking pie crusts. The festival estimates it uses over a ton of the sour stalks annually.

The festival is a benefit for Churches United in Ministry, or CHUM, a group supported by some 30 area churches that serves homeless and poor people.

Coordinator Mary Schmitz said the festival just keeps growing. Last year, CHUM raised more than $66,000 from the event.

Rhubarb snow cones are new on the menu this year. Returning favorites include rhubarb bratwurst, rhubarb relish, rhubarb burritos and rhubarb salsa.

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Online:

Duluth Rhubarb Festival: http://www.chumduluth.org/rhubarbfestival.htm

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org

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