Formal French gardens are not my favourites so I watched Monty Don's French Gardens: Gardens of Power and Passion (ABC, July 17 and 19) through an open doorway to the kitchen.
Suddenly there was mention of rhubarb for sale at a small market in a famous French garden, the red stems laid out on a huge leaf of Rheum officinale "that you grow in your gardens".
Well, I doubt it features in many Canberra gardens as it needs wet soil hence the word rheumy for watery.
That species is, according to Christopher Lloyd in The Well-tempered Garden (Penguin, 1985), "an outsizer, even among giants, with immense green leaves" while Rheum palmatum has a dusky reddish bloom on the underside of its youngish leaves "which reveals itself in titillating glimpses, like petticoats, where a breeze lifts them".
The Rheum that we do grow here - rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum) cost me a small fortune in water last summer.
However in winter, there is no pudding/dessert more comforting than rhubarb and apple crumble.
An Adelaide-born, ex Canberra, health economist, now resident in London is currently visiting family and friends in Australia.
He grows thousands of raspberries in his London garden so in Canberra he added raspberries to the apple instead of rhubarb which was enjoyed by local friends but he says rhubarb and apple is superior.
His recipe is what he calls "bog standard": a bloke's bare-bones combo.
Alastair's apple and rhubarb crumble
4 Granny Smith apples
4 stems of chopped rhubarb
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 cup plain flour
130g butter, chilled and chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 tsp cinnamon
Cook apple, rhubarb and caster sugar gently together in a saucepan for 20 minutes. Place in a baking dish. Rub flour, butter, oats, cinnamon together in a bowl using fingers until an even consistency. Cover fruit mixture with a layer of the crumble and bake for 35 minutes until crumble has browned. Note: he is very disappointed with Vietnamese cinnamon which is not as flavoursome as Ceylon cinnamon from Sri Lanka (which is available from Herbie's Spices at delis and some supermarkets in Canberra).
In an eye-catching display at the Heritage Nursery in Yarralumla a variety of rhubarb (Rheum x hybridum) has a rhubarb and apple crumble recipe on its label.
The plants are in bright pink-red pots and have an irresistible frivolity about them, petticoats indeed. Nursery staffer Ebony Sampson said they come from Triffid Park in Victoria.
Their history of growing rhubarb covers four generations of the Clayton and Smith families and the French Harvest story from Baxter on the Mornington Peninsula and Triffid Park story make interesting reading online.
Their recipe uses four cups of diced rhubarb and adds lemon zest and, in the crumble uses self raising flour and adds coconut.
Stephanie Alexander uses apple chunks cooked in butter with vanilla bean and cinnamon, cooked in a frying pan with lid, adds rhubarb puree and, in the crumble includes baking powder, ground ginger and the variation of adding roughly chopped macadamia nuts.
For the widest variety of rhubarb recipes go to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Fruit Everyday!"(Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013).
The author says rhubarb is not strictly a fruit but its berry-tartness ensures its place in the pudding course. He serves rhubarb fish parcels with soy and ginger, quick rhubarb pickle, lamb and rhubarb pasty and, deliciously named, rhubarb fumble.
Fearnley-Whittingstall says a fumble is a fruit fool topped with a separately made crumble, his own idea.
The base layer is gently cooked rhubarb, orange juice and caster sugar mingled with sweet, rich vanilla-laced custard above.
On mentioning weevils (pantry moths or flour bugs) in a Griffith pantry and in Captain Cook's voyage biscuits (Kitchen Garden, June 30), Ann Smith of Curtin got in touch.
She said the organic method to keep them away is to spread fresh (not dried) bay leaves in your pantry and add them to jars of grains and other dried ingredients.
She thinks something in the fresh bay leaves prevents the weevil eggs from hatching.
If you are heading to the National Museum to see Cook's Journal in the Endeavour Voyage exhibition, fruit crumble slices are served in the museum cafe - apricot or fig and, last week, a sour cherry version.
Thus sustained, do explore the new forecourt Garden.
In the section nearest to the car park where the Ngunnawal, Ngambri and Ngunawal people welcome you to their Country (Yumalundi, Gurruburrii, Yumalundi) among carved standing sandstones.
Among 80 Australian plants are a dozen with name labels and their flower and fruit uses include drinks for humans and food for birds