Rhubarb 101: tips and recipes to master this sweet summer fruit
By Jessie Price, June 26, 2009 - 4:36am
I first fell in love with rhubarb during a summer break from college. My mom had moved to a farm and I went to help her with her plans to grow and sell vegetables. One of my jobs was to harvest rhubarb and deliver it to the local market. I didn’t so much “harvest” as “attack.” Rhubarb is a beast of a plant—the leaves are enormous, it grows like crazy and you have to reach way into the giant leafy plants and get to the bottom of them, then hack their stalks off with a knife.
Get the recipe: Rhubarb Waffles with Rhubarb Sauce
Eventually I got good at harvesting and even thought it was fun to whack at my food. Along the way I fell in love with the stuff too. Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie, Rhubarb Waffles with Rhubarb Sauce and even Rhubarb-Date Chutney to serve over Cornish game hens are some of my favorite EatingWell recipes for rhubarb. (For more delicious seasonal recipes take a look at our newest book: EatingWell in Season: The Farmers’ Market Cookbook.)
If you decide to pick up some tangy rhubarb (which happens to be low in calories and full of fiber, potassium and vitamin C), check out these helpful tips:
- The two most commonly found varieties of rhubarb are Victoria, characterized by a green stalk with red shading, and Cherry, as red as the name suggests. One might assume that the red stalks are sweeter, but some of the greener varieties actually have higher sugar contents.
- Look for bright, crisp stalks with minimal pitting, dryness and other visible damage. (Only the stalks are edible. High levels of oxalic acid make the leaves inedible.)
- Rhubarb, like other leafy green plants, is highly perishable and susceptible to water loss, so extended storage is unfortunately not possible. Keep it under refrigeration for a week or two if you want to use it fresh, or freeze it if you want to have the summer taste all through the year.
- You can freeze rhubarb raw, or blanch the stalks in boiling water for 1 minute and chill thoroughly before packing and freezing.
- Freeze in a plastic freezer bag or airtight container, leaving an inch of empty space at the top of the container.