In Season: Rhubarb

by in In Season, May 6, 2009

My mother-in-law just told me she’s growing rhubarb in her garden this year, and now it’s my job to come up with things to do with it. Rhubarb is a quintessential spring goodie with an unmistakably tart bite.

When, Where & What?
Rhubarb hits peak season for a short time in early spring. Though I’ve never tried, I hear if you grow it in your home garden, it’s a little hard to control. I’ll see how my mother-in-law makes out and get back to you.

Rhubarb is easy to spot at the market thanks to its dark green leaves and shiny crimson stalks. The leaves are high in toxic oxalic acid, so when it comes to eating it, stick to the stalks. Known for a distinctively tart flavor, rhubarb is good raw, but is more often cooked to mellow the flavor out.

Nutrition Facts
One cup of rhubarb has about 25 calories and is full of vitamin C and vitamin E (it actually has 45% of your daily vitamin E needs). The veggie also contains some calcium, but since its oxalic acid interferes with calcium absorption, the body can’t take advantage of it. Yes, it’s yummy, but you also want to limit your enjoyment. It contains anthraquinones, which may have a laxative effect.

What To Do With Rhubarb
Since rhubarb is so tart, most folks usually prepare it with sugar or some other sweetener to give it balance. Classic dishes are sugary, strawberry and rhubarb tarts, pies and other pastries (strawberry-rhubarb crisp is my personal favorite). You can also stew rhubarb or preserve it in jams, jellies or spicy chutneys. Try spreading rhubarb chutney on toasted bread and top with sliced turkey and sharp cheddar cheese — amazing! You can also boil rhubarb with sugar to make a syrup for drinks or sundaes.

Shopping Tip: Choose rhubarb stalks that are firm and bright red. Store them in the refrigerator trimmed and wrapped tightly in plastic wrap for up to 2 weeks.

[Photo: Katia Grimmer-Laversanne / SXC]

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Comments (45)

  1. LHegs says:

    Rhubarb Cheesecake – This is the recipe that convince me to learn to make cheesecake.

    1 cup flour
    1/4 cup sugar
    1/2 c butter

    Layer 1:
    3-4 c rhubarb (well drained)
    1/2 c sugar
    1T flour

    Layer 2:
    2 (8oz) cream cheese
    1/2 c sugar
    2 eggs

    1c sour cream
    2T sugar
    1t vanilla

    1. Preheat oven to 375. Combine 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup butter. Mix until crumbly and pat into bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.

    2. Toss together rhubarb, 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons flour. Pour onto crust. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 350.

    3. Beat cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar until creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Pour over hot rhubarb in the pan.

    4. Bake for 30 minutes, or until filling is set. Bake on cookie sheet – springform pan will most likely leak. Cover with sour cream toping while still hot.

    5. To make the sour cream topping, combine 1 cup sour cream, 2 T sugar and 1 t vanilla. Mix well and spread on top of cake.

  2. LHegs says:

    Rhubarb Custard Dairy Bars

    1 cup room temp butter or margarine
    2 cups flour
    4 T. flour

    Mix until crumbly. Pat into ungreased 9×13 pan. Bake 10 minutes in 350 degree preheated oven.

    5 cups finely cut rhubarb
    6 egg yolks or 4 whole eggs
    2 cups sugar
    7 T. flour
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 cup cream (can use milk instead)

    As crust bakes, beat the egg yolks or eggs adding sugar, flour, salt, and cream or milk until well blended. Mix in the rhubarb. Pour mixture over crust and bake for 50 minutes or until custard is well set. Remove from oven and cool.

    8oz cream cheese
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    2 cups whipping cream, whipped

    Blend cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla. Fold in whipped cream and spread over the cooled rhubarb custard. Chill.

  3. B. Cason says:

    In what parts of the southeast US can strawberry rhubarb be grown? Does it need winters with below freezing temps.?

  4. Leah says:

    I grew up with rhubarb also. I love it! It’s my favorite pie, either alone or with strawberry. It makes great cobbler too. Or just rhubarb sauce for ice cream. (and Rhubarb makes a great pet name too!)

    As for Mary H.’s custard top recipe quest, there is one in the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook – you know, the one everyone has (or every thrift store).

  5. Ed says:

    We used to have a recipe for rhubarb custard pie, but we can’t find it anymore. Can someone help us with the recipe?

  6. Laurie says:

    Your photo looks like swiss chard not rhubarb

  7. When I visited Ireland, we often found Rhubard Yogurt at our breakfast buffet. It was delicious but I have never seen it in the US.

  8. Kat says:

    That’s not rhubarb in the photo. That’s red chard. Rhubarb has much larger leaves, and isn’t quite as red-veined.

  9. Kristine Brabson says:

    Thanks for the heads up on the photo! It was a mislabeled stock image. We’re looking for a better one. And great preparation ideas, everyone.

  10. Frankie says:

    If you see slugs eating your rhubarb, place foil around the base. Slugs hate foil.
    Rhubarb straight from the garden in the cools morning is best, on hand with some splenda blend (use to be sugar) and dip, bite, dip, bite….mm mmm good.

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