Spring is a season of hope, rebirth, and rhubarb. That’s right—along with daffodils and chirping birds, the season brings this red vegetable that can be used in countless recipes.
Rhubarb is officially a vegetable, although it’s often treated like a fruit. It has a strong, tart taste, which is why it is often cooked with sugar for use in recipes. In fact, its use in pies and sweet desserts has earned it the nickname “pie plant.”
Rhubarb stalks resemble celery stalks, but they range in color from crimson red to light pink to light green. The leaves of rhubarb can be toxic, but they are normally removed before the stalks are sold.
Rhubarb grows best in cool climates. Stalks typically start appearing in markets in April and depending on the region, you may be able to find it as late as September. For optimal taste and freshness, look for long, firm, fleshy stalks.
Rhubarb is an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.
A Little Rhubarb Trivia
Rhubarb inspires strong feelings—most people either love it or hate it. Even those who don’t love the idea of strawberry rhubarb pie in the spring might be interested to know that this tart, pucker-inducing vegetable has uses beyond the kitchen. The vegetable contains oxalic acid, which makes it tart and also makes it useful for scouring cooking pots. Furthermore, it can be used as a garden spray to deter aphids and has even been found to neutralize CFCs, the culprits associated with the decline of the ozone layer.
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Rhubarb is typically cooked or stewed with sugar and then used in a variety of desserts; however, it can also be pickled or used in savory dishes. Rhubarb can also be dehydrated and infused with fruit juice—in fact, it is often infused with strawberry juice to mimic the flavor of strawberry rhubarb pie.
Get creative with rhubarb—you can make rhubarb sauce, rhubarb jelly, rhubarb wine, rhubarb pudding, rhubarb pancakes, pickled rhubarb, rhubarb crumble, and of course rhubarb pie. Some people even make rhubarb daiquiris or margaritas. Your imagination is the limit. Below are a few recipes to stir your creative juices. Bon appetite!
2 pounds of rhubarb (cut into 1-inch pieces)
1 cup sugar
¼ cup honey
½ cup water
Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender. Transfer to a serving bowl and chill. Serve over grilled meat or fish. It’s especially delicious over pork tenderloin.
Roasted Rhubarb Salad:
2 cups rhubarb (chopped into ½-inch pieces)
2 Tablespoons of sugar
Balsamic vinaigrette of your choice
Toss rhubarb with sugar and let stand for about 10 minutes. Spread the rhubarb evenly on a baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Toss with salad ingredients and drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette.