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Food & Drink

How to Trade Your Garden Rhubarb for Pastries, Pies, and Ice Cream

Don't get overwhelmed—get free sweets!

overhead shot of rhubarb danishes with bright red rhubarb filling
Laune Bread

Laune Bread is all about keeping it local. The seven-year-old micro-bakery, which just opened a Lake Street brick and mortar earlier this year, keeps 77% of its ingredients spending in the upper Midwest, forging connections with small farmers who prioritize Earth-friendly farming practices.

But Chris MacLeod says it’s been tricky tracking down rhubarb from those same suppliers. And so a few weeks ago, after he noticed his neighbor across the street had some robust rhubarb growing, he asked to snag a few stalks for the bakery. That’s when Laune’s Tiff Singh had a thought: “If they gave you rhubarb, maybe other people will also be willing to give us rhubarb.”

Laune started offering a trade—bring in rhubarb, get store credit—and it turns out people were exceedingly willing.

“The first day we did it we got 60 pounds, the next day we got 30 pounds—so far we’ve gotten 120 pounds of rhubarb that we’ve been able to cook with. Which, I didn’t really have expectations, but it’s sort of shocking,” MacLeod chuckles. “The pile keeps growing.”

And while MacLeod and Singh have worried a few times that they’ll never be able to use all that ‘barb, they’re been promoting their rhubarb-for-pastries deal on and off for the last few weeks. “We’ve actually gone through a lot of it already,” he says.

Laune Bread isn’t new to getting ingredients from neighbors; for the past few years, they’ve gone to a customer’s house in Seward to pick plums each August, which Laune has turned into jams and plum upside-down cakes.

They’re also not the only ones trading sweets for stalks. Over on Chicago Avenue, Pie & Mighty is trading plants for slices, turning neighborhood rhubarb into crumb pies, “bluebarb” pies, and strawberry rhubarb custard. (“New pie alert!”) And since 2013, Sweet Science has let folks trade their garden rhubarb for pints of ice cream, which they’re doing again this weekend.

“Ice cream naturally creates joyous community, and going a step further to connect people directly to their ice cream is so much fun,” Sweet Science owner and founder Ashlee Olds tells Racket. “Rhubarb is so quintessentially Minnesotan, and it’s also that first sign that summer has arrived.” Some years, Olds says they’ll take in 100 pounds; some years that number is closer to 300.

MacLeod agrees that this is a great way to be present in the neighborhood and get the community involved—he feels a similar connection when harvesting customer plums. The bakery gets messages from people wondering whether they’re still doing it and asking when they can stop in; some folks have dropped in with rhubarb multiple times during the same weekend after snagging more from their neighbors.

“Rhubarb is such a bountiful spring plant, and people are able to make things with it, but often it’s too much,” MacLeod says. (It’s me, I’m people—last year, my partner and I made, like, 12 jars of rhubarb jam. Just an overwhelming quantity of jarred jam.) That makes the trade a real win-win—no rhubarb goes to waste, and the community gets to enjoy pies and pastries and ice cream.

Here’s the lowdown on how you can trade rhubarb for snacks at Laune Bread, Pie & Mighty, and Sweet Science. Remember: No matter where you’re dropping your haul off, they’re asking for stalks only—no leaves—and the harvest should be clean.

Credit: Pie & Mighty

Pie & Mighty

Unfortunately, Pie & Mighty (along with the adjacent pizza shop Jakeeno’s) are closed right now due to a COVID situation. When they’re not closed—they’re hoping to be back next week—you can drop off stalks at their bakery at 3553 Chicago Ave. in Minneapolis between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. They’ll inspect your ‘barb and turn away anything that looks unusable.

A small bunch gets ya one slice, and a large bunch can earn you up to four slices, so bother those friends and neighbors who have rhubarb plants they don’t know what to do with. Follow along on Instagram for more info and to make sure they’re still accepting rhubarb.

Laune Bread

For each pound of rhubarb you can collect (they weigh it on a big scale up front), you’ll get $3 in store credit at Laune Bread. “Most people end up just using it to purchase something when they drop off their rhubarb,” MacLeod says. They’re accepting trades this Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Follow on Instagram for updates and more info.

Laune Bread bakers will use your rhubarb in all kinds of stuff: hibiscus-poached rhubarb danishes, cream cheese rhubarb danishes, turnovers with rhubarb jam, German-style quark cheesecake with rhubarb jam. “It’s shocking to see how many pastries we can make with rhubarb and how quickly they’re all gone,” MacLeod says.

Sweet Science

Sweet Science’s Plants Into Pints program is back again in 2022. On Sunday, June 19, from 12-5 p.m., bring your rhubarb (“red and pink stalks only”) to their Edina scoop shop (3919 Market St.). Be ready to share the address—Sweet Science needs it due to Department of Ag regulations.

For every 10 pounds you drop off, you’ll get one free pint of Sweet Science ice cream. Can’t make it Sunday? Shoot ’em a DM to arrange a separate drop-off time—and find Rhubarb Cinnamon Almond from May through October at the scoop shop at 50th and France in Edina and at The Golden Fig in St. Paul.