Eat in Season: Rhubarb

Pucker up! It’s rhubarb season again.
By Tabitha Alterman
June 2, 2009
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This strawberry rhubarb cobbler is surprisingly light and creamy. 

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Rhubarb is one of our first spring treasures — a “fruit” before our other favorite fruits come along. Its tart tang can be tamed by almost anything sweet, and in turn rhubarb enhances the flavors of other foods. The classic pairing is with strawberries, but it also brings out the best in citrus. This is why you’ll often see rhubarb cropping up in recipes that find a delicious balance in the interplay of sweet and sour. On the herbal side, rhubarb is especially good buddies with ginger and pie spices like cloves and allspice.

For its diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties, rhubarb has long been used in natural medicine. But perhaps of more interest, it is low in calories yet high in calcium (almost a third of your recommended daily amount) and potassium, plus plenty of vitamins, minerals, fiber, folate and iron. All in all, rhubarb is excellent and now is the time to enjoy it.

Botanically, rhubarb is a vegetable. Related to celery, rhubarb’s long, ribbed, red stalks are crisp when raw, but cook down into a better-than-it-looks thick mush that’s perfect for preserves, relishes, chutneys and sauces. The red stalks are evidence of the immune-boosting anthocyanin pigments in rhubarb. Some harder to find varieties, such as ‘Early Champagne,’ have green stalks (they taste similar), but if you want to try those, you’ll probably have to grow them yourself. Lucky for you: Rhubarb is a cold-hardy perennial, and it’s easy to grow. Plus, its leaves and roots naturally produce a toxic compound called oxalic acid that helps ward off predators. (Note: Only the stems are edible.) Rhubarb stores quite well in the freezer — just wash and cut it into manageable pieces, then store in freezer bags to use until you have access to fresh rhubarb again.

The most common — and commonly beloved — preparation of rhubarb is in classic strawberry-rhubarb pie. In fact, rhubarb is known affectionately as “pie plant.” But because you can find hundreds of free recipes online for strawberry-rhubarb pie, I’ve decided to explore a few of  rhubarb’s other culinary possibilities: as an unusual pickle, a tangy salad dressing and a wonderfully unique dessert topping. But no serious lover of rhubarb would dare snub the strawberry, and I bet you’ll love the creamy, citrusy-ey strawberry-rhubarb cobbler, too. If you want to get even more adventurous, try making refreshing effervescent rhubarb wine or a unique and tasty rhubarb cocktail. Happy spring and bon appétit!

Seasonal Rhubarb Recipes

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler
Rhubarb Vinaigrette

Sticky Ginger Candied Rhubarb

Rhubarb Refrigerator Pickles
Pickled Rhubarb

Refreshing Rhubarb Cocktail

Biscuits With Rhubarb Sauce 

Post a comment below.


4/29/2013 2:35:51 PM

Sorry, that weird word on the third line from the bottom

is "obviously."

4/29/2013 2:34:11 PM

Please find someone who knows something about botany or systematics. Rhubarb and celery are not related. Just because they have long leaf stalks (petioles) does not mean they are similar species. Celery is in the parsnip family, Umbelliferae. It is similar to parsley, carrots and, obviopusly, parsnips. Rhubarb belongs to the buckwheat family, Polygonaceae. Edible members of this family include buckwheat, dock and sorrel, along with rhubarb.

6/23/2012 4:26:12 PM
My family (in Western Australia) has always eaten rhubarb stewed with granny smith apples, a bit of sugar and a couple of cloves. It's divine by itself, on top of any cereal or porridge or in a pie with icecream or cream. I have to say it rarely gets past the "by itself" stage in my home because it is so tasty!

4/9/2010 6:12:40 AM
Looking forward to trying a few new ideas for rhubarb.

tim dorsey
6/13/2009 4:42:02 PM
There's really no botanical category of "vegetable", which is really a non-technical term of culinary use to indicate a part of a plant which is eaten.

6/6/2009 4:10:39 AM
is hard to think straight when it sez (Offensive materials and/or spam will be removed, no HTML allowed) right above where you type.. but, anyway, if you can make rhubarb pie, you are a goddess...

Sherry Steele_2
6/5/2009 1:27:20 PM
I have been hearing alot about rhubarb...Will it grow in Southeast Texas?

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