Rhubarb is a curious plant to my generation. It’s not grown in every garden as it once was. I imagine due to its size and longevity.
- What is it?
- How do you grow it?
- What do you do with it?
- … and a few ideas.
It’s that time of year again when that hardy perennial is at its peak, even this year with our colder than average temperature and heavier than average rainfall. Often times dubbed the “pie plant,” rhubarb is truly so much more.
While my husband absolutely salivates over Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, this tart fruit is absolutely stupendous in savory dishes as well. And yes … I didn’t misspeak, I do mean fruit. More on that later.
While in some climates, rhubarb can be found year around, in the northern sections, it is found in our markets usually from April until June. I am buying rhubarb now from Puyallup, WA and am told that Oregon rhubarb will also soon be available in our stores. While local produce will be delayed, I’m told, by 3-4 weeks, rhubarb is in its prime.
What to Look For:
Thin, red, crisp stalks have the best texture. If stalks are floppy, it indicates they were picked too long ago.
How to Store:
Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
How to Grow:
Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable that grows well in most of the United States.
While I will admit that I truly disliked rhubarb as a child, I will say that even so, I was fascinated by the gigantic dark green leaves (which are toxic by the way) and their brilliant scarlet stalks that always grew in my Grandma Maria’s garden in Wapato, Washington.
The family would be so excited when she began to make her rhubarb pies. Secretly, I couldn’t wait for the “season” to end for fear I would have to “take a bite.” In retrospect, how I long for those days now. Those endless summer days spent catching grasshoppers with my cousins, dressing up, creating outdoor plays and picnics under the trees; the scorching eastern Washington sun tanning our noses and arms and legs … and the absolute freedom to explore and dream and … just be. And it all began with the first fruits of the season … rhubarb and its like.
Rhubarb has been used medicinally in China since 2700 BC and is a native plant of western China but also grows prolifically along Russia’s Volga River. Rhubarb has been used as a strong laxative for more than 5,000 years and has an astringent effect on the mucous membranes of the mouth and the nasal cavity.
Nutritionally, rhubarb is rich in vitamin C and dietary fiber.
Oh … the fruit thing. One would think rhubarb would be classified as a vegetable. One would be wrong. It is considered a fruit, since 1947. A New York court ruled it a fruit for regulation and taxation purposes. Apparently, by classifying it as a fruit, it reduced taxes paid.
To get you in the mood for the season, I’ve posted a recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. It’s a family favorite that is delicious served warm and cold, depending, of course, on the weather. Enjoy … no matter what our spring weather brings.
- Rhubarb Cake – A Simple Recipe I Wait for All Year Long
- A Simple Seasonal Strawberry Rhubarb Cake
- Strawberry Rhubarb Tart and Mini Galettes
- Strawberry Rhubarb Bars
- Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
- Season’s Best: Rhubarb