When I think of rhubarb, the only thing that comes to mind is pie. Other than that, my exposure to it has been very limited. After doing some research, it turns out that rhubarb is super easy to grow and can be used in a wide variety of dishes, not just desserts!
Native to Mongolia, rhubarb was originally used in Asian cultures as medicine because of its high antioxidant properties. For thousands of years, the Chinese have used rhubarb’s roots as a remedy for constipation, inflammation, and even cancer. The plant made its way across Europe as a medicine, but it was the British who experimented and studied the plant to produce varieties with acceptable taste and cooking qualities. By the 18th century, rhubarb had made its way across the Atlantic and was growing in popularity.
The plant itself, although biologically a vegetable, is legally considered a fruit after a New York court ruling in 1947. The basis behind the decision was that rhubarb was most frequently cooked into desserts, in the same way many fruits are. Perhaps an even stronger motive for this ruling, however, is that fruit was only taxed at a 35% import tariff, while vegetables had a 50% tariff from Canada at the time. Nonetheless, this plant is still traditionally served as a dessert, and therefore is referred to as a fruit by many.
In Ohio, common varieties include MacDonald, Valentine, Victoria, Canada Red and Crimson Red. Rhubarb is a perennial plant, meaning that you only need to plant it once! Some refer to this plant as “low maintenance”, so if you are experimenting with your green thumb, this may be a great crop to try. Before deciding if you’d like to plant some of your own, stop by the market and talk with your local farmers (or give them a call – you can find their contacts here). Take home a bundle or two and experiment with its flavors!
Not only is rhubarb a tasty addition to your plate, it also provides a boost of nutritional benefits. As stated earlier, rhubarb is high in antioxidants, which can help protect your cells from disease. 1 cup of raw, diced rhubarb also provides 16% of our daily Vitamin C requirements, and about 27% of our vitamin K needs. These values will decrease slightly when the rhubarb is cooked, but will still be a great source for these important nutrients!
Now that you know a bit of background on rhubarb, how are you supposed to cook it? Alone, rhubarb has a strong sour taste, but when cooked with sugar it can become very delectable. When consuming rhubarb, we only eat the stalk! The leaves contain high amounts of oxalic acid, making them poisonous. That being said, the first step to cooking rhubarb is cutting off about an inch on both ends. You can also remove any coarse strings or brown spots with a vegetable peeler. Wash under cold water, and cut into 1 inch pieces. Rhubarb will break down as it’s being cooked, so there is no need to cut it too small. In a stockpot, add sugar and a little water. Keep in mind the plant has a high water content already, so you don’t need to add very much water.
Are you ready to try it? Pre-order your rhubarb on Tuesday by going here, and pick it up curbside next Saturday! If you need some inspiration, check out these recipes below:
Rhubarb Topped Pancakes (Countryside Original Recipe)
Makes 8 – 10 pancakes
- 1 1/3 cups Spelt Pancake Mix (from Mud Run Farm)
- 3/4 cup Milk
- 3 tbsp. Butter
- 1 Egg
- 4 cups Rhubarb
- 2/3 cup Sugar
- 1/2 cup Water
- Chop about 1 pound of rhubarb into 1 inch pieces. Be sure to discard any leaves.
- In a stockpot over medium heat, combine sugar and water, and heat until boiling.
- Reduce heat, add rhubarb, and let simmer for about 10 minutes or until rhubarb is tender.
- Serve warm or chilled.
- Stir together pancake mix, milk, melted butter, and an egg until well combined.
- Pour onto hot griddle in circles of desired pancake size.
- After pancakes are cooked, top with rhubarb sauce and enjoy!
Rhubarb Fool (Recipe Source)
“Fool” is a traditional English dessert from the 19th century. In this recipe, we will be using Greek yogurt instead of custard, giving it a tart flavor. This easy dish will leave you wanting more!
- 2 cups rhubarb, roughly chopped
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 ½ cups whipping cream
- 16 oz Greek yogurt (plain)
- Place the rhubarb in a pan with the sugar over low heat. Simmer, covered, until tender. Uncover, turn up the heat to medium and allow some of the juice to evaporate. Set aside and cool.
- Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks, then carefully fold in the yogurt. Loosely swirl in the cooled rhubarb (you should still be able to see bright red streaks amid the pale white cream and yogurt mixture), and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
- Serve in shallow dishes or glasses.
Rhubarb Crunch (Recipe Source)
This sweet treat is great served with vanilla ice cream! The crunchiness adds the perfect texture to the sweetened rhubarb.
- 3 cups rhubarb, diced
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 Tbsp flour
- 1 cup light brown sugar (packed)
- 1 cup quick cooking oats
- 1 ½ cups flour
- 1 cup butter
- Preheat the oven to 375.
- In a bowl, combine sugar, rhubarb, and 3 Tbsp flour. Stir and spread evenly in greased 9×13 inch baking dish.
- In a separate bowl, combine brown sugar, oats, and the remainder of flour. Stir well. Cut in butter until the mixture is crumbly. Add this mixture on top of the rhubarb mixture.
- Bake for 40 minutes.