Blackberries are just as appealing as strawberries with rhubarb, if not more so, and certainly far more dramatic looking. But since strawberries are often around then, too, why not have some of both here?
Use the poaching liquid to make Rhubarb Syrup: Pour the juice off the cooked fruit and boil it until thick and syrupy, a matter of 15 minutes or fewer. Add a teaspoon or two of orange-flower water or orange liqueur to taste. Cool, then refrigerate.
Yield: Serves 6
1½ pounds rhubarb (about 4 cups cut up)
Juice of 1 orange plus 3 wide strips of zest
¾ cup organic sugar or ½ cup agave nectar
One 1-inch piece vanilla bean, slit lengthwise
1 to 2 cups blackberries
1½ teaspoons rose or orange-flower water, or more to taste
1. Rinse the rhubarb, trim the stalks, then cut them into pieces 1 inch long. Measure the orange juice and add enough water to make 2 cups. Put it in a wide pan with the orange zest, sugar, and vanilla bean. Bring to a boil, stir to dissolve the sugar, then reduce the heat to a quiet simmer. Add the rhubarb and cook carefully, turning the pieces so that they cook evenly. Often a piece that is cooked on one side is still a bit firm on the other side. It takes only about 10 minutes for them to be done.
2. Use a slotted spoon to remove each piece as it finishes cooking to a wide bowl, alternating with the blackberries.
3. Return the poaching liquid to the stove and boil until only ¾ cup remains, after 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the rose water, then pour the syrup over the fruit. Refrigerate and serve cold.