Seasonal Spotlight: Rhubarb

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

When I was a kid growing up in Georgia, our neighbors grew rhubarb in their backyard garden. I honestly didn’t know much about it as it wasn’t something my mother cooked with. All I remember is her telling me that the leaves were poisonous. As an adult, I was full of questions. Is rhubarb a fruit or vegetable? What does it taste like? And lastly, what do you do with it?

I’ve been seeing these gorgeous reddish-green stalks at the local farmer’s markets recently, so yesterday I snapped a few up. I still don’t know what it is or what to do with it, so my research prompted me to write a post about it.

Rhubarb is a vegetable that originated in Asia and was often used by the Mongols. It has medicinal properties in addition to being a source of food. Only the reddish green stalks are edible; the leaves are toxic. It is available from April to September. The flavor is described as tart, and the texture is very crunchy, like celery. Some people call rhubarb the “pie plant.”

The stalks are cooked in many ways. They are most commonly baked into strawberry rhubarb pies, but are also stewed, made into jam, and made into wine. A rhubarb stalk makes a nice snack dipped in sugar.

Tomorrow I am off to an u-pick farm to get some fresh strawberries to go with this rhubarb!

To prepare rhubarb, be sure to remove all the leaves. Trim the ends of the stalks and wash them off. They can keep in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a few days.

(Image: Kathryn Hill)