Rhubarb gets a bad rap. It’s commonly known that it requires a lot of sugar or fruit to make it palatable. Strawberry rhubarb cake, rhubarb jam, rhubarb crisp, you get the idea. But, the people who love it, really love it. We think they have a club. We’re here to dispel this myth and make a case that rhubarb is much more “Wohooo” than “barb.”
Rhubarb is more widely available during the springtime beginning in April or May. Because it flourishes in cool weather below 75° F, it falls back a bit as summer gets hotter. So, it has a window and we are here to encourage you to take advantage of it, much like springtime asparagus, peas and fiddleheads.
That said, our stores have lots of rhubarb in spring—and some of it local. The stalks are edible, and the vibrant, wide green leaves beautiful. Consumed raw, it has an intensely tart flavor that is not considered pleasant, but combined with sugar or fruit …
And the leaves, well, consumed en masse, they are actually poisonous, but you would have to eat a TON of rhubarb leaves to prove that. The leaves actually contain a compound called oxalic acid, which is toxic to both humans and animals, but again, you would have to eat several pounds. We are recommending that you compost just to be safe.
While it’s most commonly used in sweet treats, it has several savory applications. Use it as a filler for salsa, in a marinade for meat, an addition to chutney or in a tapenade. Of course, you still want to add a little honey, fruit or sugar to being out its zesty flavor.
We have already claimed it as a vegetable, but just so you know, the U.S. Customs Court legally classified rhubarb as a fruit in 1947 because it is used to make sweet desserts. The thought was that importers shouldn’t have to pay the higher vegetable tax on the stalks. We are totally down with that. But, because fruits officially have seeds, we’re sticking with rhubarb being a vegetable.
Look for stalks that are firm and upright, shiny without any blemishes. Dark red rhubarb is sweeter and more flavorful. If the rhubarb has the leaves attached, look for leaves that look fresh and haven’t wilted.
A half cup of cooked rhubarb provides more than one-third of the recommended dietary intake of vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting and bone health. It also contains 2 grams of fiber (which helps prevent colorectal cancer), some calcium and vitamin C.
So, when you eat rhubarb, you’re not just trying something new, you’re giving your body a little extra boost (who wants colorectal cancer?).
Try it in these sweet and savory recipes our Chefs have developed just for you. See if you don’t become one of the many “root for rhubarb” fans! That’s another club …
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