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Thompson Rhubarb Crisp: 60 years of Spenard Gardening

Thompson Rhubarb Crisp: 60 years of Spenard Gardening

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By Taylor Rose Thompson

My grandmother, Patricia Thompson, lived in Spenard all of her adult life. She raised eight wild children in a tiny home on Dahl Lane on one income, a tight budget and a whole lot of gardening. My father remembers it as being out of necessity, but Grandma Pat made her life, her garden and her resources work for her and her family.  

Grandma Pat became an organic gardener and baker, long before it was trendy. She sourced many ingredients out of her garden that she shared with her neighbor, the late Judge Butcher, the great-grandfather of The Spenardian editor, Victoria Petersen. In that garden, she grew everything from potatoes to raspberries, lettuce and of course rhubarb. She would make rhubarb and dandelion wine, raspberry jams and our family gathering staple: rhubarb crisp.

As she grew older, the garden became smaller. Fences were put up, the wild vegetation of Spenard shrank as more people moved in. My dad moved one block away from her on Hillcrest Drive, which meant we kids were within safe walking distance to grandma’s organic root beer, fresh raspberries and the homemade ice cream cakes she would make for our birthdays. She taught me how to make jam, harvest potatoes in the rain, and make her infamous rhubarb crisp.

Since her passing, our families don’t gather as often. But we all still make some version of this rhubarb crisp. I think it connects us to our departed matriarch. Or, because its super easy to make, it’s tasty and cheap if you have your own rhubarb plant. Either way, here is my version of Grandma Pat’s rhubarb crisp recipe. It’s a Thompson staple and can be yours too.



  • 5 cups of chopped rhubarb
  • 1 package of strawberries, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • ½ cup of brown sugar
  • ¼ cup of white sugar
  • Juice from ½ lime and ½ lemon
  • 2 tbsp. flour

Crisp topping:

  • 6 tbsp. cold butter cut into small pieces
  • ¾ cup of brown sugar
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • Sprinkle of salt
  • Sprinkle sugar on top of crisp to make it pretty crispy


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine filling mix ingredients in a bowl. Let marinate for 20 minutes or longer.
  3. While filling mix is marinating, mix crisp topping in a separate bowl until butter is pea-sized.
  4. Pour filling mixture into greased pyrex baking dish.
  5. Pour the topping on the filling and put into the oven for 40 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and let cool.  I immediately cut into the rhubarb crisp and put into a bowl and top with rhubarb crumble ice cream from Wild Scoops because I hate waiting and there is nothing better than a hot rhubarb crisp with melted ice cream.
  7. Enjoy!

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