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What is rhubarb? Everything To Know About The Special Ingredient

People have treated rhubarb as a kind of fruit for years. They have misunderstood its type and taste, making people even more confused about it. And it's time to give this vegetable the explanation it deserves!

While most people refer to it as a type of pie plant, it is, in fact, a perennial vegetable. It grows well in northern US states, such as Maine, Illinois, and Washington. Over the world, it is mostly grown in Europe and China, as it needs to thrive in the cold climate.

The plant is quite special when it comes to appearance. Its stalks have magenta, pink, and green colors at the end, while its leaves are big and green.

However, don't dare to eat its poisonous leaves, or you will eventually have a stomach ache. Still, its colorful stalks are a different story. They are edible and, more than that, taste better than you might expect.

Is rhubarb a fruit or vegetable?

We’ve been treating it as a fruit

What Does Rhubarb Taste Like?

Rhubarb has a relatively low level of natural sugar compared to other veggies such as peas, beetroots, and carrots.

Raw rhubarb has a juicy and crunchy texture, which might be too sour for most people's taste preferences. If you also cannot handle these flavors, you probably do not enjoy eating raw stalks as they are too sour and tart, like the taste of cranberries or green apples.

If you prepare them as a dish, remember to supplement some sweeteners such as apples, strawberries, or simply sugar for a more palatable rhubarb flavor.

Another tip for you is to try to combine this vegetable with asparagus as they create a roasted, delicious delicacy.

When Is Rhubarb In Season?

Unfortunately, its season does not last long, only four months from April to July. Since it can be cultivated in most states of the US, you can easily run into this vegetable in season at any farmer's market.

Where To Buy Rhubarb?

Hothouse rhubarb is grown all year round, while field-grown one is available in late-spring and early-summer only. The growing season is so short that you should get it whenever you can.

You would find people selling its stalks at farmers' markets or in grocery stores. They are usually as large as individual celery stalks, both of which are sold in pounds.

Apart from markets and grocery stores, individual farmers might also sell it in bulk if they have an excellent growing season or a bumper harvest.

No matter what color the stalks are, they should be crisp and heavy with shiny, taut skin. It would help if you skipped out on fibrous, dry, and rubbery stalks.

The most important thing is that you can cultivate and harvest this plant right in your home garden. Let the plant grow without harvesting it in the first year. You can start to harvest in a small amount next year, and you can have a full harvest from the third year.

Make sure to harvest stalks thicker than an inch only. You can either pull out the stalks from the soil or cut them right at the soil line.

You can also choose to harvest the entire crop or harvest them in succession over four and six weeks. The plants can still be productive for up to 15 years unless damaged by diseases or pests.

What To Do With Rhubarb?

Though this plant has a specialized sour taste, it might come as a surprise to you that it is a commonly used ingredient in pies, cakes, or sweetened components.

1. Sweetened components

Rhubarb can be a perfect combination with fruits like strawberries and apples, creating full-of-flavor compotes. You can also add honey, maple syrup, or sugar for extra sweetness.

2. Salads

If you are getting bored of daily salads, we recommend a special way to spice it up by pairing fresh vegetables and a slight amount of rhubarb. Chop it into some bite-sized pieces and enjoy your dishes.

3. Jams And Purées

Have you ever tried to eat pancakes with strawberry jams made of it? If not, then you should try it right away. Believe us, that amazing flavor with a cup of coffee is the best way to start your day.

It is not the end of wonderful ideas that you can use rhubarb. Try it with stews, roasted snacks, juice, etc., is never a bad idea after all.


If you want to use it for a short period, such as within a week, you can put it into a loose storage bag in a fridge.

To preserve for a longer time, you can chop it into one-inch pieces and put them into airtight bags to freeze them in ice makers. In this way, you can use this vegetable for years.

Many cooks tend to wash the vegetables before using them, but we do not recommend you do that before storage.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Now, let's move on to the FAQs section to help you understand more about it! 

1. What Does Rhubarb Look Like?

If you have not come up with the term “rhubarb, it is a little bit difficult to imagine what it looks like just by words.

Credit: Rhubarb

2. Can You Eat Raw Rhubarb?

Absolutely. It is a wrong assumption that you cannot eat raw. However, we do not think you will enjoy it due to the bitter and sour taste.

So, you can either dip its stalk in different types of sweets, such as sugar, honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, or sprinkle it over cereal and yogurt to soften its tartness.

 The stalk is edible, but be careful with the leaves. They are poisonous, so remember to get rid of all leaves before cooking them.

3. How To Cut Rhubarb?

Before starting to slice it, carefully clean its stalk first. Next, for a big piece, cut across its center. You can skip this step if you have a skinner piece.

After that, cut it into small pieces through its length. That is how you can cut this vegetable. You can watch this video about How To Cut Rhubarb if you want for more details.

Bottom Line

Rhubarb seems to be a mysterious ingredient for many chefs, but hopefully, you can understand why it is so well-known in the 18th and 19th centuries after this article.

It is beneficial and will be a great addition to create an explosive taste for your dishes. That is the end of today's article.

Thank you for reading.

  • July 17, 2021
  • Blog
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