Eat in Season: Rhubarb

Pucker up! It’s rhubarb season again.

  • strawberry rhubarb cobbler
    This strawberry rhubarb cobbler is surprisingly light and creamy. 

  • strawberry rhubarb cobbler

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 

7/4/2018 4:00:56 PM

this is my first time with Victoria rhubarb, and maybe I am going about this wrong but assume it's all kind of the same, but with the green stocks. They are very thick, so am I needing to wait til next year? This is the second year for them

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.

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