Rhubarb: Fruit or Vegetable


| 5/14/2015 10:29:00 AM


Tags: rhubarb, lentils, Washington, recipe, Lyndsay Dawson Mynatt,

 

Rhubarb is a confusing plant. It looks like a vegetable, but is cooked as a fruit. Tasted alone, it is unbearably bitter. So where does rhubarb fall in the botanical spectrum? The origin is traced over 2,000 years ago to Asia where it was initially cultivated for medicinal qualities.[1] In China, the roots were dried and pulverized to treat ailments, while the plant was commonly used as a laxative to treat indigestion.[2] The medicinal use for rhubarb continued in Europe until it was discovered that the petioles (leafstalks) were edible and even tasty when cooked properly.

In the 19th century, the Victoria variety caught the British by storm. It was easy to grow, consistently tender, and reliable.[3] The obsession began. Rhubarb was used for jam, jellies, pies, custards, puddings, and fools (see below for Rhubarb Fool). It wasn’t long until rhubarb made its way across the Atlantic. 

Established as a vegetable, from the genus Rheum, rhubarb was reclassified by US custom officials in the 1940s as a fruit, under the auspice that it should be categorized according to consumption. In actuality, the change took advantage of lower tax rates and shipping laws. Interestingly, rhubarb is still classified as a fruit in the United States today.

The classification of rhubarb as fruit or vegetable is less important than taking advantage of its spring flavor. The season is short, and time should not be wasted on debates. Rhubarb is a treat to be savored, and I have been working on a variety of recipes to use it in both respects—as fruit and vegetable. 


berthali
5/25/2015 11:17:24 AM

What is the amount of rhubarb for the dal recipe?


amanda
5/25/2015 11:17:08 AM

Where is the rhubarb in the ingredient list for Dal & Rhubarb? For savory uses, try rhubarb chutneys on pork or duck.




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