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. Jill says:

    Anyone have any savory ideas for rhubarb?

  2. laura says:

    Mary, here’s the rhubarb pie recipe I think you are looking for:

    Peoria Rhubarb Cream Pie

    1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust


    3 to 4 cups of rhubarb, cut up

    1 cup of sugar

    1/3 cup flour plus 1 tablespoon

    1/8 teaspoon salt

    2 eggs beaten in a measuring cup

    3/4 cup milk (OR enough milk to add to beaten eggs to make 1 cup of liquid)

    Crumb topping:

    1 cup Flour

    2/3 cup sugar

    1/2 cup butter, softened

    DIRECTIONS: Sprinkle 1 tablespoon flour in the bottom of the pie crust. Evenly spread cut up rhubarb in pie crust. Mix the sugar, 1/3 cup flour, salt and 1 cup egg/milk mixture together. Bake (without topping) at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Combine topping ingredients until crumbly. Pour over warm rhubarb filling and then bake at 350 degrees for another 40 to 45 minutes more or until pie tests done. Makes 8 slices.

  3. Chau Tu says:

    Barbara Webb, I would like to receive some recipes. Please email me at if you would. Thank you.

  4. Pat says:

    Barbara Webb, I would like to receive some recipes. Please email me at if you would. Thank you.

    • Barbara says:

      Please I grew up eating Rhubarb my Mom would make dumplings out of rhubarb she just cooked the rhubarb til it boiled then sweeten to taste break canned biscuits into fourths and cook them til dough is done sometimes she make the dumplings dough from but please email me your recipes Thanks I would really appreciate it I also used to take a salt duster and spinkle it with salt and eat it that way it was still a little sour but the salt helped

  5. Ivy says:

    Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler cooked in the dutch oven is the all time fav. camping dish for our family– serve with ice cream and you will think you have gone to heaven!

  6. Donna Larsen says:

    Barbara Webb! I have a fiance growing a patch now and will be required to come up with things to do with all of this once it comes to! Help, share your recipes please!Thanks!

  7. Peggy says:

    Can Rhubarb be frozen? As is or blanched?

    • danawhite says:

      Hi Peggy –
      I usually give my rhubarb a chop and quick blanch before I freeze it – then it's ready to toss into any of my recipes straight from the freezer.

  8. JoAnnette Sieve says:

    I have a big rhubarb plant and was so happy to see it coming up out of the ground about two weeks ago. I put a cage over it since we have a heavy deer population here in the high country of the Colorado Rockies. I was so mad when I found that they had pushed the cage off and had eaten it to the ground! I put a bigger one on it and secured it to the ground even more. So far, so good. I wonder if it makes deer sick to eat the leaves? Please send me a rhubarb custard pie recipe if you know of one. I had it once and it was really good. Also rhubarb/strawberry jam please…

  9. It truly is seriously a excellent and useful piece of data. I’m glad which you shared this beneficial data with us. Please retain us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Linda L says:

    I have two Rhubard recipes my grandkids just love.
    Rhubard Cake

    1 1/2 c rhubarb cut fine
    1 1/2 c Br. sugar
    1/2 c shortening or butter
    1 egg
    1 tsp salt
    1 c sour milk
    1 tsp B soda
    1 tsp vanilla
    2 c flour Bake 35 mins. 375 degrees

    1/4 c sugar, 1tsp cinnamon – sprinkle over top or make a cream cheese frosting to finish it off.

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