So it looks like celery, but we’re supposed to use it to make dessert? Wait, what? Rhubarb can be intimidating if you aren’t familiar with it ~ but I’ve got the straight facts, and lots of delicious inspiration for how to use it.
What is rhubarb?
It looks like celery, but we’re supposed to use it in desserts? ~ what exactly is rhubarb, anyway? (If you didn’t grow up with it, rhubarb can be something of a mystery.) Rhubarb is technically a vegetable, but it’s used as a fruit for culinary purposes. And it’s one of the earliest spring veggies to come into season. On its own, it is very sour. But add some sugar or mix it with other sweet fruits like strawberries, and it’s heavenly! My rhubarb recipes showcase the famously delicious flavor of rhubarb from breakfast cake to cocktails, with everything in between.
Why is my rhubarb green?
Rhubarb stalks can range in color from pale green to pale pink to deep crimson. The flavor will be the same, though, so no worries.
Can I grow rhubarb?
Yes! If you live in a climate where the ground freezes in winter, chances are you can grow rhubarb. Generally rhubarb needs a cold winter where temperatures dip below freezing in order to grow, and is considered hardy in zones 3-8. It’s a perennial, meaning it’ll come back year after year, and is a very tough, hardy plant.
Most rhubarb plants need to be dug up and divided after several years for optimum health. This is a great opportunity to share you plants with friends, or expand your rhubarb plot!
Is rhubarb healthy?
Yes! like all fruits and veggies rhubarb has a lot to offer nutritionally, including calcium, Lutein (fights cancer) Vitamin K, and antioxidants.
How to use rhubarb ~
We eat just the stalks of rhubarb, the leaves are poisonous, so slice them off.
Because it’s so tart, rhubarb generally needs a significant amount of sugar, or another sweet ingredient paired with it to be palatable. Strawberries are a classic companion with rhubarb, and luckily come into season around the same time.
You can chop the stalks and use them like you would berries or other fruit in baking. You can also stew rhubarb and make a compote, puree, sauce, etc. If the stalks are very large or fibrous, you can peel the stringy outer parts of the stems with a vegetable peeler.
Rhubarb is really very versatile, it works well in all sorts of classic desserts and baked goods. Here are a few examples ~
An easy little snack cake that makes the most of bright punchy rhubarb (get the recipe here)
This crisp recipe showcases the juicy side of rhubarb! (get the recipe here)
How to preserve rhubarb ~
There are lots of easy ~ and delicious ~ ways to preserve rhubarb, whether you have a garden glut or a farmer’s market impulse buy.
Think of it the same way you would berries or other fruit, and make it into jams, compotes, fruit leathers, or simply freeze raw to use as pie or tart fillings later in the season.
Making a syrup or your own rhubarb cordial is another delightful way to keep the flavor of rhubarb going a bit longer. The sweet-tart taste and gorgeous rosy hue of rhubarb makes it a fantastic addition to refreshing beverages and cocktails.
To freeze fresh rhubarb, first wash and dry it. Slice the stalks into 1 inch pieces and lay out on a baking sheet. Put the pan in the freezer for an hour, or until the rhubarb is frozen solid. Transfer it to sturdy zip lock freezer bags. It will last up to a year.
We can’t resist this rhubarb dessert when it’s hot and bubbling from the oven. (get the recipe here)
If I could only make one special ice cream this spring… (get the recipe here)
There’s something about buttery shortbread teamed up with zingy rhubarb that just won’t be denied. (get the recipe here)
Did you think strawberry shortcake was the ultimate spring dessert? Think again! (get the recipe here)
Can you use rhubarb in savory recipes?
Absolutely! They are harder to come by, but rhubarb can make a great addition to savory dishes. Again, it’s all about harnessing and taking advantage of rhubarb’s natural tartness.
Everybody gets their own spring salad cup to take with them while they mingle…genius! (get the recipe here)
Baked Salmon with Rhubarb
Two spring heavyweights get together on one plate, and it’s delicious! ~ Feasting at Home (get the recipe here)
Crispy Rhubarb Lemon Chicken Bake
Shredded Brussels + Kale Salad with Rhubarb + Grilled Oranges + Citrus Tahini Dressing
Small nuggets of raw rhubarb give this salad the perfect punch of flavor. ~ Healthy Little Vittles (get the recipe here)
Can I make cocktails with rhubarb?
Of course! The tart flavor of rhubarb is fabulous in cocktails, and there are lots of creative ways to infuse rhubarb into alcoholic drinks…
This rhubarb infused vodka is (almost) too gorgeous to drink! (get the recipe here)
Rhubarb syrup mixed with gin and lemon juice makes the perfect spring cocktail. ~Leite’s Culinaria (get the recipe here)
Rum, grapefruit, and lime bring out rhubarb’s tropical side! (get the recipe here)