Spring is here and so begins the arrival of an array of fresh local fruits and vegetables. It’s an exciting time!
Rhubarb is an interesting one of those. Rhubarb is technically a vegetable but it is used as a fruit for the most part. It’s pretty, pink and perky stalks make it the perfect spring feature. Originally from China, rhubarb was used medicinally for thousands of years. It only became popular as a food ingredient in North America in the 19th century.
Nutritionally, rhubarb is low in calories (approximately 27 calories/cup) and is a source of Vitamin C, calcium, potassium, magnesium as well as a good amount of soluble fibre.
You can find rhubarb in season locally from January to June. It’s grown in two crops: the hothouse variety, available from January to June, and the field-grown variety, available April, June and July.
In the market, rhubarb is often sold loose with leaves still intact. Look for firm, well-colored, straight stalk and healthy looking leaves (if still intact). When you get home, you should remove and dispose of the leaves immediately because they are toxic!!! Keep the trimmed stalks in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them.
Please note: rhubarb leaves are toxic owing to their high oxalic acid content. So, remove them as soon as you can and don’t eat them!
Got too much? After removing the leaves, wash the rhubarb stalks, chop them up and store them in the freezer in sealed plastic bags for up to six months. Because you will be cooking them anyways you don’t have to worry about losing texture from freezing.
Since rhubarb stalks are tough and far too tart to be eaten raw you will have to cook your rhubarb before you eat it. Often, a sweetener is needed to cut the sour taste of rhubarb, however you can minimize the sugar content by using natural sweeteners or combining rhubarb with other fruits, such as strawberries, or fruit juices. Pairing rhubarb with other fruits is one reason why you rarely see rhubarb featured on it’s own.
One of the most common uses for rhubarb is in pies. Here are some others of my favourite ways to use rhubarb:
- Rhubarb Compote – made by cooking rhubarb down to a saucy or syrupy consistency. This is a great addition to a bowl of oatmeal, or topping to yogurt or frozen yogurt!
- Rhubarb Crisp
- Add chopped rhubarb to muffins
- Use rhubarb in sauces, jams and chutneys
If you are looking for a dish to impress you can make a rhubarb tart. This rhubarb and almond tart is simple to make, looks rather elegant and would be just the perfect way to finish dinner on a spring evening!
For more on rhubarb visit: https://www.ontario.ca/foodland/food/rhubarb