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Rhubarb festival prep work is as easy as pie

Yvonne Switajewski (left), Barb Puleo and Linda McNamara take a break from making rhubarb pies for the 10th annual rhubarb festival slated for Friday, July 27, and Saturday, July 28, a fundraiser at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Pine River. Submitted Photo / Sherrie Sundlie1 / 2
Women from St. Christopher’s in Nisswa, St. Alice in Pequot Lakes and Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Pine River make pies in the kitchen of Our Lady of Lourdes to sell Friday, July 27, and Saturday, July 28, as part of the 10th annual rhubarb festival. Submitted Photo / Sherrie Sundlie2 / 2

It's as American as apple pie—if all the pies were made with rhubarb, that is.

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Pine River will celebrate its 10th annual rhubarb festival Friday, July 27, and Saturday, July 28, by making the most pies ever for this year's fundraiser.

"Our goal—we just came up with 500 pies because we thought that it was an even number and it was a higher number than we've ever had," said Yvonne Switajewski, organizer of the pies.

The 500 freshly baked and frozen rhubarb pies for sale for $12 a pie will be sold 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Friday and 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday. Call 218-587-3874 to reserve a pie.

"They all have rhubarb in them, but there's like blueberries, strawberries, apples (in the pies)," Switajewski said.

Our Lady of the Lakes Parish is comprised of St. Christopher Catholic Church in Nisswa, St. Alice Catholic Church in Pequot Lakes and Our Lady of Lourdes in Pine River.

"And we'll have pies for sale after all the Masses in all three churches on Sunday," Switajewski said. "We've got all of our rhubarb cut; the parishioners cut it after church. ... People donate it."

Other ways to eat rhubarb besides in pies are to eat it raw; stirred into smoothies and margaritas; smothered as a chutney to complement salmon, trout, roast chicken, turkey, duck and pork chops; and roasted and added to greens and dried, according to Smithsonian.com.

"People in southern states cannot grow rhubarb, so we get a lot tourists up here. The tourists—they love the fresh rhubarb pies. But I have a garden with rows of nothing but rhubarb. Rhubarb starts up in the spring, and it grows until about the end of July," Switajewski said.

"You have to really pick it in June, so that's why we had to freeze it. We have a full 18-cubic-foot freezer full of frozen rhubarb."

Also for sale will be rhubarb cookbooks, mini pies, jams, jellies, baked goods, plants, craft items, fresh produce, handmade quilts, rhubarb slush, Grandma's treasures from the garage and a lunch of pulled pork, rhubarb baked beans and coleslaw with a slice of pie and ice cream.

"Everybody has rhubarb, but most people don't do anything with it," Switajewski said. "And the fact is, there's a lot of things you can do with rhubarb. We even have a rhubarb cookbook."

Kathy Soukup is co-chairperson of the rhubarb festival, which will be at 203 Second St. N., Pine River.

"The rhubarb fest started out as just the fundraising event for Our Lady of Lourdes, and Our Lady of Lourdes combined with St. Christopher and St. Alice, and now we're incorporating help from those other two churches to make this work, to make it bigger and better," Soukup said.

"There will be lots of pies here. There will be a luncheon served. There's lots of crafts. There's live music and a rummage sale in the basement of the church. And they can watch the pies being made, and it's kind of fun to see all the ladies busy at work."