All About Rhubarb

Did you know that rhubarb is actually a vegetable? Most of us treat is like a fruit and often pair it with strawberries to make pies, rhubarb crisps, jams etc.

Monika Grabkowska - Unsplash

By Wendy Behenna May 3, 2022

Rhubarb is one of the first things we harvest from our gardens in the spring. April and May are the peak seasons with harvesting often going into June. The stalks usually have a pinkish reddish hue but sometimes they are more of a green colour. The colour doesn't however reflect the sweetness level. Look for firm crisp stalks with shiny skins. Avoid stalks if they have split ends or blemishes. Choose stalks that are 2" or less in width. If the leaves are attached, smaller size leaves mean younger plants and possibly a little sweeter in taste. Make sure you cut off the leaves because rhubarb leaves are poisonous because they contain oxalic acid.

History of Rhubarb

Rhubarb is a member of the polygonaceae family and is a relative of knotweed and buckwheat. The precise origin of rhubarb is unknown but was grown before the 18th century in Europe for medicinal purposes. By the early 18th century, England and Scandinavia were growing rhubarb as a vegetable crop.

The Chinese used the rhubarb root for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. It was thought to help with GI and renal disfunction disorders.

Rhubarb was rarely eaten raw because of it's sour taste. It's probably the most sour-tasting vegetable you can find. Once sugar became more affordable and more widely available, people starting adding sugar to sweeten it up and use it in dessert like dishes.

Health Benefits

Studies on the health benefits of rhubarb are limited. Resources say it is not especially rich in nutrients but a good source of fiber – similar amounts to apples and celery. It is

Caleb Rankin - Unsplash thought to have a decent amount of calcium but because it also has a high oxalate content, this binds with the calcium and makes it hard for our bodies to absorb.

How To Prepare and Store

Wash the stalks just before cutting up but don't cut the stalks until you are ready to use them, or the rhubarb will dry out. You can store uncut stalks in a plastic bag in the fridge for approximately one week. If you want to cut the stalks in advance then the

best way to preserve freshness is to cut Maximilian Zahn - Unsplashed

them into 1/4" to 1/2" slices, put them in an airtight freezer bag and freeze until ready to use. If you know the quantity you will need for what you are using them for, then store them in that quantity. Don't forget to label the bag with the date and amount of rhubarb.

Using Rhubarb in Recipes

There are many different ways to use rhubarb, but the most common is to make dessert like dishes. One thing to note is, avoid cooking rhubarb in aluminum, iron, or copper pans. The acidity of the rhubarb due to the levels of malic and oxalic acid it contains, may react with these three metals and could lead to discolouration of your cookware.

Many recipes pair strawberries with rhubarb because the sweetness in the strawberries tends to balance out the tartness in the rhubarb. Below you will find some recipes you might want to try.

Rhubarb Crisp

Gluten-Free Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble | My Baking Addiction

Use arrowroot starch as a thickener in place of cornstarch if you have it at home.

Rhubarb Scones

Glazed Strawberry Rhubarb Oatmeal Scones {Vegan & Gluten-free} (

Rhubarb Chutney

Quick and Easy Rhubarb Chutney Recipe (

Overnight Oats with an Easy Stewed Rhubarb Recipe

Vanilla Chia Overnight Oats with Easy Stewed Rhubarb (

This stewed rhubarb recipe uses sugar.

Rhubarb Strawberry Smoothie

Rhubarb Strawberry Smoothie - The Healthy Tart

This easy stewed rhubarb recipe uses maple syrup.

Ginger Rhubarb Vanilla Cream Bars

Ginger Rhubarb + Vanilla Cream Bars {paleo + vegan} and why we have to stop labelling ourselves | The Nourished Mind

A shortbread type crust with a creamy cashew filling topped with a rhubarb compote. A different version of rhubarb pie.

There are many ways to use this versatile vegetable that I really think we all classify as a fruit. It's really easy to freeze so if you can grab a bunch while it's in season and have the freezer room to store it, I really encourage you to do so. Use organic frozen strawberries for your recipes if fresh ones aren't available.

Karolina Kolodziejczak - Unsplashed

Wendy Behenna is a retired Medical Laboratory Technologist who now uses the kitchen as a "lab" to create healthy, real food dishes. As a graduate of the Culinary Nutrition Program, she wants to share the knowledge she acquired to help people with meal planning and cooking skills, especially those transitioning to a gluten-free and dairy-free lifestyle. She is also a Certified Tea Sommelier and loves incorporating tea in her recipes when possible.

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