The low down on rhubarb ~ plus the best rhubarb recipes!




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rhubarb stalks

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.
 
Rhubarb is a perennial that is well known for being one of the earliest spring edibles available.  On its own, it is very sour.  But add some sugar or mix it with other sweet fruits like strawberries, and it’s heavenly!

 

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.

Growing rhubarb

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.  

chopped rhubarb in a bowl, for a rhubarb crisp

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 ~

 


 

Rhubarb + Almond Pound Cake

~ All Purpose Flour Child

 


 

Rhubarb Crisp with Cardamom and Vanilla

~ The View from Great Island

rhubarb crisp just out of the oven, with a large spoon

 


 

Big Strawberry Rhubarb Buttermilk Muffins with Brown Sugar Streusel

~ Family Style Food

 


 

Rhubarb Breakfast Cake

~ The View from Great Island

Rhubarb Breakfast Cake


 

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.

 


 

Ginger Cardamom Rhubarb Compote

~ The Kitchen Paper

 


 

Ruby Rhubarb Syrup

~ A Farmgirl’s Dabbles

 


 

Rhubarb Butter

~ The View from Great Island

Rhubarb Butter

 

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. 

 


 

Individual Salad Cups with Rhubarb Vinaigrette

~ The View from Great Island

classy and elegant finger salad cups - no fork necessary!

 


 

Crispy Rhubarb Lemon Chicken Bake

~ Cotter Crunch

 


 

Shredded Brussels + Kale Salad with Rhubarb + Grilled Oranges + Citrus Tahini Dressing

~ Healthy Little Vittles

 


 

Can I make cocktails with rhubarb?

Of course!  The tart flavor of rhubarb is fabulous in cocktails…

 


 

Rhubarb and Ginger Gin

~ Fuss Free Flavours

making rhubarb gin

 


 

Rhubarb Pie Cocktail

~ Boulder Locavore

Rhubarb Pie Cocktail

 

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15 Comments

    Leave a Reply

  • Reply
    Suzanne Major (Sue)
    June 15, 2019 at 6:04 am

    I just found your rhubarb recipes. I am eager to try some. I have to buy rhubarb in stores, don’t have a garden. When I ask for rhubarb in stores, people look at me as as they never heard from it…
    Bye Bye from Longueuil, Québec, Canada.

  • Reply
    Marina
    April 12, 2019 at 11:57 pm

    Hi Sue

    We are getting ready for rhubarb season in Denmark to. Love it! All Your info is great as always and the recipes you picked looks scrumptious. There is quite a big taste difference between the many different types of rhubarbs and in general the greens are less sweet than the read ones. They are good for different things so I have three different kinds in my garden (and I never touch them once planted. We are advised not to disturb them as a disturbed plant needs at least one to two years of rest before you can harvest from it again). Have a great spring

    • Reply
      Sue
      April 13, 2019 at 7:39 am

      Thanks for that Marina, and enjoy your spring bounty!

  • Reply
    Charlie
    April 10, 2019 at 3:34 am

    Thanks, Sue:
    I still have a glut of rhubarb in my freezer from last summer.
    Great that you like Cardamon as much as I do!
    Hope your weather is good, we are still getting snow :~(

  • Reply
    oakley drumheller
    April 8, 2019 at 9:03 am

    your site is the ONLY one I follow…..love it. Our thoughts are very much in line.

    BTW, I can a Victorian BBQ that is ridiculously good, using rhubarb. I can so much using rhubarb that I am the sole buyer from a local organic farmer and sell my products at the local farmers’ market.

    • Reply
      Sue
      April 8, 2019 at 9:07 am

      I’d love to see your recipe, I want to include more rhubarb ideas on the blog this spring, and bbq sauce sounds perfect.

  • Reply
    Jeanne
    April 7, 2019 at 6:56 pm

    My rhubarb is just coming up!! Can’t wait to make something yummy! My fav is anything strawberry/rhubarb!! Thanks for all the info and recipes, Sue!

  • Reply
    Rich
    April 7, 2019 at 1:23 pm

    Can Rhubarb be grown on container pots?

  • Reply
    Carolyne R Holland
    April 7, 2019 at 12:05 pm

    Hi Sue. I just want to say that I didn’t think your wesite could get any better, but I swear; everytime I open your emails, I find something that makes me immediately put the ingredients on my grocery list. I am going to have a lot of company this summer and I’m just now beginning to put my garden. Now, I’m going to check with the nursery to find out more about groing Rhubarb. Your ideas are so broad and well-researched and your photography is spectacular. Such beautiful use of edible flowers for spring ! You have always presented a professional website, with new enticing ideas and I look forward to it everyday. Thank you Sue. I’m hoping that my culinary friends have taken my advice, and subscribed to your site. Take care and keep up the amazing work. Kudos on your Amazon alliance. You deserve as many followers as you desire. Thank you, Carolyne

  • Reply
    JeanFB
    April 7, 2019 at 8:14 am

    I love rhubarb! Grew up in PA with a big patch in the side yard, and now that I’m in NC I really miss it. Some grocery stores have it, and some people look at you very strangely if you ask for it… ;) Great recipes, thank you!

  • Reply
    Nancy
    April 7, 2019 at 7:10 am

    Great article, I’ve been using it in various savory ways, often just adding a bit to soups and stews as you would carrots. It imparts a nice flavor and texture. I will try the Ruby Red Syrup for sure. Rhubarb is a food that always has a memory attached to it.

    The second photo is Swiss chard I believe.

    • Reply
      Sue
      April 7, 2019 at 7:17 am

      I never thought to use it like carrots, I love that idea Nancy!

  • Reply
    Karen
    April 7, 2019 at 5:36 am

    Gorgeous round up – thanks Sue!
    When I lived in Minneapolis, our house had old rhubarb clumps in the backyard. Really miss those now (not the temps tho :)

    • Reply
      Sue
      April 7, 2019 at 7:18 am

      It’s the most beautiful plant, and I love how early it springs up!

  • Reply
    Tricia | Saving Room for Dessert
    April 7, 2019 at 4:59 am

    Great info on rhubarb! I don’t cook with it often enough but want to try all these recipes. What a gorgeous vegetable indeed :)