Food from the Hart

Spring Produce Spotlight: Rhubarb

In Product Spotlight on May 20, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Dusty red with hints of green, rhubarb has a wonderfully unique tart flavor that can add a spark to any springtime dessert and some savory dishes.  The key to working with rhubarb is balancing the tartness with the right amount of sugar.  In some regions of the country it is actually referred to as “pieplant” because it’s frequently used in pies as well as compotes, sauces and crumbles.

Buy the Best

The long edible, celery-looking stalks should be firm and unblemished.  Look for the smaller stalks.  Smaller ones tend to be more tender while larger stalks are often stringy and tough. When you get the rhubarb home, wrap them tightly in a plastic bag and pop in the refrigerator.  They will stay crisp for up to five days.

Using Rhubarb

Trim off any green leaves that may still be attached.  These are poisonous! Cut the tough root off and peel back any fibrous layers. Proceed just as you would with celery, cut into slices or small dice, depending on what the recipe calls for.  Rhubarb is most commonly boiled with liquid, sugar, honey and other spices or flavorings.  You can also bake rhubarb by adding it to cake, muffin or cupcake batter just as you would strawberries, apples or blueberries.  No matter how you use it, it’s important to balance the tartness of rhubarb with sugar.  Rhubarb also releases a tremendous amount of liquid when you cook it.  This is great if you are making a compote or sauce, but for pie fillings or crumbles you will need to use a thickener like arrowroot or cornstarch.

Give Savory a Try

Although it might be surprising, you can use rhubarb in savory dishes.  Onion, garlic, cumin, mustard and balsamic vinegar all accent rhubarb nicely. But don’t forget to add a little sugar or honey – even in savory preparations!  You can pair a rhubarb compete or relish with chicken, pork or even lamb.

Add Rhubarb to Your Next Meal

  • Create a sweet compote by boiling strawberry and rhubarb together with vanilla bean and cardamom.  Serve over whipped cream or ice cream.
  • Add to muffins with a little cinnamon for a breakfast treat.
  • Mix sliced rhubarb with red wine, sugar, cinnamon and cloves and boil.  Use as a compote to serve over angel food cake or pound cake.
  • Combine with apple in a chutney and serve with sausages or pork tenderloin.
Rhubarb Fun Fact
While rhubarb is often used as a fruit it is in fact a vegetable! Who knew?


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