is technically a vegetable (although the United States Customs Court in New York
ruled it a fruit in 1947) and belongs to the Polygonaceae family. It is a
perennial plant (rheum rhaponticum) originating in northern Asia. The first
rhubarb plants had green stalks, some with a touch of red.
The color, size,
season, and oxalic acid content of rhubarb can vary. However, do not eat the
leaves of the rhubarb plant as they are inedible and toxic.
The rhubarb you
find in markets today can be either field grown or hothouse grown. Field grown
rhubarb is identified by its bright rosy red and green tinged stalks with green
leaves and has a very pronounced tart flavor. It is available from late winter
to early summer. Hothouse rhubarb, on the other hand, has pale pink to pale red
stalks and yellow green leaves. The stalks are not as tart as field grown but
has the advantage of being available year round.
rhubarb looks for crisp and firm stalks that have a nice bright color and are
free from blemishes and cuts. The leaves, if still attached, should be fresh
looking, not wilted. Rhubarb can be refrigerated in a plastic bag for a few
days before using. Stalks will become soft if stored too long. Remove any
tough and stringy fibers and brown spots before using. Can be frozen for up to
six months. Simply wash, dry, and cut stalks into 1 inch (2.54 cm) pieces and
place in a plastic bag.
Strawberry Rhubarb Tarts
Rhubarb & Strawberry
1 pound (454 grams)
rhubarb stalks = approximately 3 cups chopped rhubarb and 2 cups chopped
and cooked rhubarb
- Known as the "pie
plant" in the United States.
- Has a very intense
tart flavor and quite a bit of sugar is needed to offset this tartness.
- Sweet strawberries
are often combined with rhubarb to balance its flavor. Apples, figs,
pears, and raspberries also complement the flavor of rhubarb.
- Spices such as
ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg go well with rhubarb.
- Used to make sauces,
jams, and desserts (such as pies and tarts).