It indicates spring is coming when Rhubarb begins appearing at farmers’ markets. This tasty treat is the star of our favorite spring rhubarb recipe, but many of us have yet to learn what it is.
You’re not the only one. You can find all the details about this sweet-tart dessert, including how to prepare it.
What is Rhubarb?
Rhubarb grows best in cooler climates. It’s edible but is sometimes grown as an ornamental because of the beautiful vibrant red stalks. Raw Rhubarb is bitter and not generally enjoyed. When you bake Rhubarb with sugar, the bitterness is reduced, and becomes a delicious treat.
Rhubarb is used to make a variety of savory dishes. Use it in salsa, chutney, or as a meat marinade. Check out our collection of delicious rhubarb recipes for inspiration.
Is Rhubarb a fruit or a vegetable?
The tomato controversy has shown us that the distinction between fruit and vegetable is blurred. Rhubarb, however, is an interesting case. Fruit is a plant that contains seeds, while vegetables are made up of leaves, stalks, and roots. The U.S. Customs Court classified Rhubarb in 1947 as a fruit, even though it is technically a vegetable. They decided that since it’s often used to make sweet desserts, like other fruits, importers should not have to pay the higher vegetable tax on the stalks.
Is Rhubarb Poisonous?
The rhubarb stalks can be eaten, but the foliage contains oxalic acids, which are toxic for humans and pets. Oxalic acid poisoning is characterized by stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and a burning sensation in the mouth or throat.
We’re not too worried about it. You’d need to consume several pounds of Rhubarb to reach toxic levels.
When is Rhubarb Season?
Rhubarb is available in spring because it grows best at temperatures below 75deg F. Most areas have it available in April or early May. However, some regions allow Rhubarb to grow throughout the summer. You can grow Rhubarb in a greenhouse or indoors, so you may find it even as early as January.
How to Pick or Harvest Rhubarb
It’s essential to select stalks that are upright and firm when you’re harvesting the rhubarb plant. Avoid anything flimsy and soft, as the oxalic acids from the leaves can migrate into the stalks. The dark red Rhubarb has a sweeter, more flavorful taste, but you can eat the green stalks too.
Put away your garden shears to pick Rhubarb! Grab firm stalks, twist, and pull to harvest. If you have trouble pulling away the stalks, let them grow more. Remove the leaves, and then wash the Rhubarb thoroughly to remove dirt.
Look for shiny, firm stalks at the supermarket or farmers’ market. They should be free of any imperfections. Look for Rhubarb that has leaves attached. They should be fresh and not wilted.
What does Rhubarb taste like?
Rhubarb is a very tart fruit that some find unpalatable. Raw, it is crunchy and similar to celery. However, it becomes soft after cooking. Rhubarb’s sour taste does lessen when it is cooked. However, Rhubarb usually has sugar added to balance out its sourness.
How do you store Rhubarb?
The rhubarb ends can dry out quickly, so it’s best to wrap them in a towel or place them in a reusable produce bag. Wrapping Rhubarb ends in a cloth towel or placing them in a recyclable produce bag will help prevent them from drying out. We like to wrap Rhubarb in aluminum foil, just like in celery. Be careful not to wrap too tightly. Rhubarb will last for about two weeks when stored properly in the fridge.
If you don’t have enough, you can freeze it to be available all year. Slice the stalks in one- or two-inch chunks. You can freeze it raw or blanch it for a minute in boiling water to set its color. Then, you can stop the cooking by dipping the Rhubarb into an ice bath. In either case, dry the pieces and arrange them in one layer on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. The Rhubarb should be frozen for at least four hours. Transfer the details to a freezer bag. The frozen Rhubarb will last for about a year.
You can now start cooking with the Rhubarb. You can use a vegetable peeler to remove minor blemishes from the stalks. You have a few options. Here are some of our favorite ways to prepare Rhubarb.
Cut the stalks into 2-inch pieces. After julienning the details, toss with red wine vinegar, salt, and sugar. After a few minutes of marinating, you can add the quickly pickled Rhubarb into fresh salads, slaws, or as a pickle on sandwiches.
Cut the Rhubarb into 1-inch pieces. In a small pan, simmer the rhubarb pieces with sugar and water over medium heat. (For every 3 cups of chopped Rhubarb, add 1/2 cup sugar and one tablespoon water). Let the mixture cool after 15 minutes. Use the stewed Rhubarb as a topping for ice cream, cakes, or syrup.
Add sugar to the Rhubarb (about half a cup per 3 cups). Bake the Rhubarb at 350degF for 15-20 minutes until soft and tender. Use the pureed Rhubarb to make homemade soda or add it to boozy drinks like margaritas. You can also turn it into ice cream.
Rhubarb is also a great ingredient to add to desserts or savory dishes.