The Odd Couple

The Odd Couple: Tart rhubarb makes a sweet complement to strawberries
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Good and evil. day and night. leno and conan. There are elements that exist in harmony with their opposites, complementing and enhancing the qualities of the other to create a whole more vibrant than the sum of its parts. (OK, maybe not Leno and Conan.) The Chinese call this yin and yang, the balancing of opposing forces.

In the culinary universe, if there is any yin that needs a yang, it’s rhubarb. The perennial vegetable hailing from Asia can come across as sour, limp, and lifeless when cooked on its own. But paired with a yang—sweet strawberries, for instance—rhubarb flaunts its tart, and galvanizing flavor.

“Strawberry rhubarb pie hits the perfect balance between super sweet and tart,” says Dave Workman, owner of Flat Rock Village Bakery. “That’s why people love it.”

In Western North Carolina, rhubarb reaches maturity in late May, just as strawberry crops begin to ripen. Along with pies, rhubarb makes great tangy sauces and marinades, and can be stewed, baked, poached, or sautéed. Fresh rhubarb has firm, shiny stalks, similar in texture to celery, but the leaves contain oxalic acid and can be poisonous, so don’t eat those. Instead, try Workman’s simple recipe for strawberry-rhubarb pie filling. Ancient Chinese wisdom never tasted so good.