Cooking in Season // Rhubarb

Rhubarb MuffinPies, tarts and crisps, oh my!  When you think of Rhubarb, what comes to your mind?  Rhubarb is often used in dessert recipes and paired with lots of sugar to balance out it’s tart flavor.  While a fruity dessert may be the perfect end to a healthy balanced meal, it’s a good idea to have a few low-sugar recipes on hand.

Rhubarb Nutrition

Like all fruits and vegetables, rhubarb is packed with minerals, vitamins, and other vital nutrients perfect for keeping our bodies healthy.  Dietary fiber, protein, vitamin C, vitamin K, B vitamins, calcium, and potassium are just some of the nutrients found in rhubarb.  It is also low in calories, fat, and cholesterol.

It is important to know that the leaves on rhubarb stalks are poisonous.  Some of the symptoms experienced from eating rhubarb leaves are weakness, burning of the mouth, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, nausea vomiting, and possibly coma.  Few deaths have been reported from eating rhubarb leaves, but just to be safe, don’t eat them!

Purchasing, Growing, and Preserving

When purchasing rhubarb from the grocery store or market you should look for crisp, blemish-free stalks that are about 1″ in diameter.  Stalks are more flavorful when harvested early in the growing season (April through June).  Rhubarb can be red or green or even a combination of those colors, often called pink or speckled rhubarb.  Although the color isn’t an indication of flavor, there is more vitamin A and other antioxidants in darker colors of rhubarb.

Growing your own rhubarb is easy!  It’s a self-sustaining plant that comes back every season.  Usually it will grow for 8-12 years and doesn’t require much maintenance.  It’s a strong plant and can tolerate a fair amount of neglect.  If you consider yourself to have a “black thumb”, this may be the perfect plant for your garden.  For more information on growing rhubarb, visit Rhubarb in the Garden by Horticulturist Taun Beddes with USU Extension.

Because rhubarb usually grows in abundance freezing it is a great way to preserve it.  To freeze rhubarb you first need to wash, trim, and cut it into 1-2 inch pieces.  Next, heat it in boiling water for one minute.  You want to cool it promptly in cool water to help retain it’s color and flavor.  Last, pack it into containers without sugar and stick it in the freezer.  Rhubarb will stay good in your freezer for about 9 months.

Cooking with Rhubarb

Browsing online you will find many recipe ideas for rhubarb, from desserts and syrups to ketchup and barbecue sauce.  Whichever rhubarb recipe you decide to try, remember to keep it healthy by watching the amount of added sugar.  Check out the Kid-Approved Rhubarb recipe below.  I’ve put it to the test myself and it really is kid approved.  You might also like Rhubarb and Strawberry Crumble. Enjoy!

Candi Merritt

Certified Create Better Health Ambassador

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