Rhubarb is a perennial plant that looks like pink celery. Although it is usually eaten as a fruit, it is botanically considered to be a vegetable.
The thick stalks, which can grow up to 3 feet in height, are the only edible part of the plant. They have an extremely tart flavour and are usually served cooked.
Rhubarb leaves should never be eaten as they contain oxalic acid, which is toxic to humans and pets.
Although there are many varieties of rhubarb, the most common types are hothouse and field grown.
Hothouse rhubarb has pink to pale red stalks, with yellow-green leaves and a mild flavour. Field grown plants have cherry red stalks, green leaves and a stronger flavour.
How to Select and Store Rhubarb
Choose crisp, brightly coloured, firm stalks that have unblemished leaves.
Rhubarb can spoil quickly, so it should be used soon after purchasing. Remove and discard leaves, then wrap unwashed rhubarb tightly with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 5 days.
To Freeze Rhubarb
Wash the rhubarb, then trim off and discard the leaves.
Chop the rhubarb stalks into 1-inch pieces. Arrange the pieces in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze until firm, about 1 hour. Once frozen, transfer the rhubarb pieces to a freezer bag and press out excess air before sealing it shut.
Be sure to mark your bags with a best before date. Frozen rhubarb should be used within 2 months of freezing, but can be stored up to 9 months in the freezer.
When using frozen rhubarb, be sure to thaw and drain it well before using in your recipe. If you are cooking it into a sauce, syrup or compote, you can skip this step.
How to Prepare Rhubarb
Wash the stalks thoroughly before using. Cut off the root end and discard. If the stalk seems stringy (fibrous), peel them with a vegetable peeler or pairing knife – like you would with celery.
Cut rhubarb into 1- to 2- inch pieces, and if any of the rhubarb stalks are thick, slice them in half lengthwise – this will help to make everything the same size.
One pound of fresh rhubarb equals three cups chopped or two cups cooked.
How to stew: Cut into small 1 inch pieces and cook in a small quantity of water over medium heat for 15 – 20 minutes, or until soft. If desired, sweeten with sugar, and continue cooking until the sugar is dissolved, approx. 3- 5 minutes.
How to roast: Cut rhubarb stalks into 2-inch pieces. Toss with 1/3 cup of sugar then spread out on a parchment lined baking tray. Roast in 400 F (200 C) oven until rhubarb is tender, about 15 minutes.
- Rhubarb is usually cooked with sugar to offset its tart flavour.
- Rhubarb fans can try eating it raw! Simply dip into a cinnamon-sugar blend or some honey and nibble for a seasonal treat.
- The longer rhubarb is cooked the softer it becomes, so watch it carefully if you don’t want a jam like consistency.
- Do not eat the leaves as they are toxic.
- Thin red or pink rhubarb stalks are more tender than thick green stalks and will require less sugar to sweeten.
- To enhance the reddish colour of stewed rhubarb, add a few raspberries or strawberries to the mix.
Rhubarb Goes Well With
Apples, butter, caramel, cinnamon, ice cream, cream, custard, ginger, honey, lemon, orange, mint, raspberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, sugar, vanilla, pastry and pork.
- Rhubarb’s tartness can help to balance out sweet recipes like sauces, jams and desserts. Trying serving stewed rhubarb over ice cream and granola.
- Rhubarb and strawberries are delicious when baked into a pie or crumble.
- You can also cook rhubarb down to a compote and spoon it over pancakes, waffles or layer it into a trifle!
According to the Canadian Nutrient File, the nutritional value per 250ml (1 cup) of raw rhubarb using the daily recommended intake from Health Canada is: 47% of Vitamin K, 17% of Vitamin C, 11% of potassium,10% of calcium, and 6% of magnesium. It also has 218ug of lutein, an antioxidant that is reported to be beneficial for maintaining good eyesight.