On a clear morning, the first rays of sunrise alight the stems of my Ruby red rhubarb. For weeks now, I’ve admired the flirtatious florescence of twenty-one plants.

I had no clue how beautiful this sour food could be when I planted the crowns well over a decade ago. Yes, the word “crown” suits this queenly spring perennial. She may reign up to thirty years when well fed. I use chicken manure water for her roots and a natural foliar spray for her large, heart-shaped leaves.

You may think I’m overrating this old-fashioned favorite sometimes found on abandoned farms nearby lilac shrubs. Farmers chose these companions with purpose, which you’ll know by the conclusion of my praises for this hybrid of Rheum in the family Polygonaceae.

I have a long, steadfast relationship with Ruby. If you’d tasted my mother’s fresh strawberry-rhubarb pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on a warm, spring day, you’d also be smitten.

Now, considering I gather fresh, brown eggs every day to carry uphill to my kitchen, why wait for local strawberries? Why not add sliced rhubarb to my favored custard pie?

Chess Pie, a Southern tradition mixing one half cup butter, 2 cups sugar, one tablespoon all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon cornmeal, five eggs, one cup milk, one teaspoon vanilla, and 2 tablespoons lemon juice, the baked result defies description. Two to three cups sliced rhubarb sparkle like jewels in the golden surface of toasted cornmeal.

Oh, I add one tablespoon of culinary lavender to the Rich Pie Crust recipe that accompanies the Chess Pie on page 247 of my lovingly abused Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. The flavor of Lavandula angustifolia blends exquisitely with the crust, custard, and rhubarb.

This in mind, seriously consider to whom you serve this luscious dessert. Will your companion(s) mutually admire the pie’s beauty? Will they widen their eyes in surprise as they savor the scents of dairy, vegetable, grain, and herb?

Then adorn your table with a bouquet of lilacs. Later in spring when the peonies bloom, arrange them with poppies, roses, iris, and whatever spring flowers grace your gardens.

Go ahead, snip those compelling blooms that stop you, cause you to bow your face to their stamens. If you happen to grow Beauty Bushes, a few small blooming stems will infuse any room with her heavenly fragrance.

On a fine day, you may brew a pot of coffee or steep a teapot of Earl Gray to enjoy outdoors with your pie. Preferably in the company of a lilac and Beauty Bush.

Rhubarb Chess Pie is most delicious warm. Some pie lovers insist a dollop of real whipping cream necessary to complete the experience. Not I.

Yesterday I enjoyed the last piece of the Rhubarb Custard Pie I baked Monday morning for my Bible study group. The chilled custard tasted like rhubarb ice cream in a cone.

Dear Reader, the lowing sun beamed on my rhubarb stems this evening.

The close of spring’s admiration draws nigh.

Contact Iris at irisfarmletters@gmail.com.