About Rhubarb

Rhubarb

Though technically a vegetable, rhubarb is treated like a fruit in the kitchen. Its long stalks or ribs range in color from cherry red to pale pink and it looks somewhat like celery that's blushing. Rhubarb is inedible raw and must be cooked, usually with a good dose of sugar to balance its tart flavor.

Field-grown rhubarb crops up in spring, with the bulk of it appearing in April and May. Hothouse-grown rhubarb is available year-round in many areas. Look for crisp, firm stalks without blemishes or cuts. Field-grown rhubarb has a bright red color and a more pronounced flavor than the pale pink hothouse-grown stalks. Any leaves attached to the stalks should be fresh-looking, not wilted or limp. Also, the thinnest and youngest rhubarb will be the most tender and require the least sugar.

To store, refrigerate whole stalks in the crisper in perforated plastic bags for up to 3 days. Cut stalks can be stored in zipper-lock plastic bags up to 8 months. When preparing, rhubarb leaves are mildly toxic (they contain oxalic acid) and should always be discarded. If the stalks are fibrous, remove the strings with a vegetable peeler. Stalks that are more than 1 1/2" wide should be cut in half.

To reduce amounts of sugar used with rhubarb, generally, the redder the stalk of rhubarb, the sweeter the flavor, requiring less sugar to be used when cooking. The smallest, thinnest stalks will also be the least tart and require the least sugar.

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