What do you think of when you hear "rhubarb?"
A lot of people say “It reminds me of grandma” or “Rhubarb pie, of course!”
Over the years, it seems like rhubarb has become an underappreciated vegetable (or is it a fruit?), but we want to get it back on your radar because this is the perfect time of year to enjoy it!
So, for the month of May...
rhubarb is the Superfood of the Month -- take the Challenge with us!
Most of us know...it looks like celery...and it's tart…add some sugar and it works great in pies, preserves, sauces, jams and desserts. But, we are here to tell you...IT IS NOT JUST FOR DESSERTS! While it IS fantastic in desserts, and is even referred to as "pie plant," it is ideal for so much more!
And, in case you were wondering, rhubarb is botanically a vegetable (it is part of the buckwheat family), even though it's treated more like a fruit. And, although it may sound bizarre, a New York court once declared it a fruit! Strange but true...
This native plant of China is a perennial herb grown for its edible stalks and was once used as medicine. It was used as a healing ointment as early as the 16th century. With only 26 calories per 1 cup serving, it has a high water content, is very low in sodium and helps keep your body cleansed. It's also loaded with fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, calcium and potassium. Plus, rhubarb is high in the bone strengthening Vitamin K, just like kale and spinach. So, nutritionally, it's definitely worth adding to your routine!
How do you choose it and store it?
Rhubarb resembles celery stalks and is found in varying colors, from deep ruby red to light green. Some say the red variety is sweeter, but both colors can be prepared, cooked and served the exact same way. At the farmers’ market or store, you want to look for fresh, firm stalks -- you don't want dull or limp stalks and want to avoid bruises.
- Storing: simply place it in a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. It will stay fresh for at least a week.
- Easy to freeze! Simply cut the rhubarb stalks into 1/4 inch slices and freeze them in Ziploc bags.
- Easy to grow! Rhubarb is very easy to grow and, once established, plants can continue to produce for 20 or more years! A mature rhubarb plant can produce 6 pounds of stalks per season, typically April through August (and often at its best in late spring and early summer). Look for it at your local farmers’ market!
Don't eat the leaves!
Rhubarb leaves can be toxic to humans, so if you grow it yourself, immediately remove the leaves when harvested and discard them.
How do you enjoy it?
Rhubarb can be used in a variety of dishes. It has a tart flavor, which is due in part to the malic acid, the same reason green apples taste slightly sour. Because of its tartness, it can be a great substitute for cranberries.
To offset the tart flavor, sweetener is typically added, but don't go crazy! It's best to keep your sweetener natural or as minimal as possible. Rhubarb can also be combined with sweeter fruits such as strawberries, blueberries and peaches, which produce a fantastic flavor combination.
Keep in mind: one pound of fresh rhubarb = 3 cups chopped = 2 cups cooked.
Here are just a few ideas on how to enjoy it:
- Roasting! Of course, a great option is roasting rhubarb in the oven. Add a little honey and it won't take long...in 8-10 minutes you will have tender sweet rhubarb you can add to the Honey Roasted Rhubarb Salad or use as a topping for your favorite meat or seafood.
- Mexican-style! With Cinco de Mayo just a couple days away, combine your rhubarb with Swiss chard and black beans to make delicious Swiss Chard and Black Bean Enchiladas.
- Salsa! Yes, rhubarb can be eaten raw and used in great-tasting salsas too -- try the White Fish with Rhubarb Salsa!
- Jams! Rhubarb jams and marmalades are amazing, especially paired with the right foods! You can make your own or buy a version with REAL ingredients to use in meals like this "Jam the Lamb" with minted rhubarb marmalade!
- Of course, there is dessert! Combined with strawberries, rhubarb makes a fantastic Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble that would even impress Grandma!
Type of pan?
One caution is that copper, iron and aluminum saucepans can turn rhubarb brown and can stain your pan. It is best to use cast iron, anodized aluminum, or non-stick coated aluminum pans to avoid this problem.
Take the Challenge!
Show this healthy, tart, fruit-like vegetable some love and tell us what you think! Do you have a favorite way to enjoy rhubarb?
We would love to hear your ideas...even if it is dessert!
In case you missed the prior Superfoods of the Month: