Rhubarb, Harbinger of Spring
Marty Martindale

Rhubarb is one of those fruits which almost every young child is excused from eating. The more charitable refer to it  as “bracingly sour,” unless it is sweetened beforehand. Another kindness extended is, “it is an acquired taste.” One of its most saving graces is the fact it arrives in almost bare, winter markets early, and tart as it is, it makes one know it and some new strawberries will be a tasty pie.

Related to buckwheat, rhubarb is technically a vegetable, though it is often referred to as one of the earliest fruits of the season. Rhubarb’s large, hairy, triangular leaves are poisonous to eat. The edible part of rhubarb is its large, celery-like stems, red or green. The red ones are considered a little sweeter. Celery has many leaves at the top of one stalk; rhubarb has a single leaf at its top.

This fruit/vegetable dates back to the early days of the Silk Road and the 1400s and ranked right up there with the other treasures, the satins, spices, musks, rubies, diamonds and pearls! It didn’t arrive in the United States until the 1820s, brought by European settlers, moving with them as they migrated west.

Commercial rhubarb is grown in heated greenhouses and is called hothouse rhubarb. Choose freshly cut stalks which are firm and glossy. Rhubarb is low in calories; however, it requires sugar for most people, and this contains calories to consider. It is rich in potassium and vitamin C.

When preparing, remove any tough spots on stalks with vegetable peeler. Always use a non-ractive pan when cooking.

Refrigerate uncooked rhubarb in plastic wrap for up to three days. Freeze it by cutting into inch pieces and spreading on tray in freezer until solid. Store in plastic for up to six months.


  • Bars, Cakes, Cobblers, Compotes, Cookies, Crisps, Tarts
  • Bread, Muffins,
  • Chicken with
  • Chutneys
  • Drinks
  • Jam
  • Lentil Soup
  • Pickles
  • Pies by itself of with other fruits
  • Pudding
  • Salad
  • Sauce
  • Sorbet, ice cream
  • Soup
  • Wine

COMPATIBLE FLAVORS — Rhubarb’s sourness is flattered by a constellation of other fruits and flavors:

  • Orange, grapefruit, lemon, blood orange
  • Cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla
  • Maple syrup, sugar
  • Strawberries, apples, gingerroot,
  • Helps cut greasy flavor of all meats.
  • Compliments fish

Some helpful rhubarb sites:


A  book, Rhubarb Rennaissance, written by Kim Ode, is a whole cookbook of rhubarb recipes. It looks like a fun book, and she refers to her subject as “Naughty but Nice.” In it, she has chapter on appetizers, side dishes, entrees, desserts, breads, beverages and they’re all rhubarb!

Marty Martindale

About Marty Martindale

Foodsite Magazine and Marty aim to help the cooking-challenged avoid dependence on others due to lack of cooking knowhow. We concentrate on quick breakfasts, portable lunches and “good-4-u” night meals. With readily available web translation, the magazine explains separate foods, a little of their history, their nutrition, suggested “go-withs,” serving ideas and links to foodsites with recipes.

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