- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Aliza Green’s “Field Guide to Produce” (Quirk) represents a lot of information, handily enough packaged to take out shopping with you.

It’s a compact, sturdy little paperback that not only offers help in recognizing a wide range of fruit and vegetables, but it also tells readers how and when each is grown and what to do with it to enjoy it at its best.

Entries are set out in alphabetical order — yes, from apples to zucchini — with a center section of about 200 color photos to help identify items and find their profiles.

For cooks, a section describing the hands-on basic preparation of each fruit or vegetable is printed in easy-to-find boldface type.

The long apple entry, by the way, has a careful introduction to some 20 varieties; the zucchini entry includes summer squash and squash blossom.

About rhubarb, we learn that it’s “a perennial spring plant with thick, red, fleshy stalks topped by inedible wide leaves.” Its two basic types are hothouse and field-grown, the latter in season in spring and summer.

Other rhubarb lore offered in the “Field Guide”:

• Choose rhubarb with stalks of the brightest color that are firm and crisp. Avoid rhubarb with pithiness or decay at stalk ends or with bruises or blemishes.

• Storage: Refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to one week.

• Preparation: Note that rhubarb should be cooked only in nonreactive stainless-steel pots because it will react with other metals. For stringier field-grown rhubarb, pare the stalks or pull off the strings. Hothouse rhubarb generally does not need peeling. Cut off any greens and discard them.

Cut rhubarb into slices, on the diagonal, if desired, against the grain of the stalk.

• Serving suggestions: Make a strudel with phyllo dough and a filling of sweet apples and rhubarb. Saute rhubarb with Chinese five-spice powder, and serve with salmon fillets. Make rhubarb crumb bars with pastry on the bottom, rhubarb in the middle and a topping of oatmeal-walnut streusel.

• Flavor affinities: Blackberries, brown sugar, duck, ginger, goose, honey, maple syrup, oily fish, orange, raspberries and strawberries.

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