Rhubarb: an underappreciated culinary wonder
Story and photos by Sarah Harper
Rhubarb is an underappreciated culinary wonder that emerges as the coziness of winter melts away. While the Gorge wildflowers begin to bloom, the local markets are graced with rhubarb, showcasing its red, pink, and pale green stalks.
But you might be thinking, “What the heck do I do with rhubarb?” So let's dive into the basics of this prolific springtime crop.
What is Rhubarb?
While rhubarb is technically a vegetable, most people use it like fruit. Rhubarb season is from April to June, and the Pacific Northwest is gifted a second season in July. We eat its perennial pinkish-red stalks, unlike its leaves - which we avoid due to high concentrations of oxalic acid.
How Does Rhubarb Taste?
Raw rhubarb is stringy and crunchy, similar to celery, but with a harsh, lip-puckering flavor. Yet, when cooked, the rhubarb becomes more palatable. Its texture softens, and the flavors mellow. Moreover, this lovely tart flavor is extra tasty when paired with something sweet.
How to Use Rhubarb
Pairing rhubarb and strawberries in sweet desserts is familiar to many. Not only do strawberries and rhubarb peak around the same time, but the sweetness of the strawberries balances the sourness of the rhubarb.
Now you might ask, “What can I do with rhubarb that isn't pie?” Rhubarb is a versatile ingredient that can enhance the flavors of many savory dishes like pork chops and roast chicken. You can even get creative with a lemony rhubarb salsa spooned over your fish tacos.
How to Store Rhubarb
Store unwashed rhubarb in the refrigerator. You can wrap it loosely in aluminum foil or use a produce bag. Properly stored, rhubarb can last 2 to 3 weeks. Want to use your rhubarb year-round? Just slice and freeze the stalks or make a delicious rhubarb compote.
Honey Rhubarb Compote
One of my favorite ways to enjoy rhubarb is in a Honey Rhubarb Compote.
Notably, my Honey Rhubarb Compote is superb when blended into smoothies, incorporated into yogurt parfaits, or whisked into a Lemony Vinaigrette.
Rhubarb Recipes to Try This Spring
Here is a link to my Honey Rhubarb Compote recipe and other easy (non-dessert) recipes. These will keep you enjoying rhubarb all season long.
Now that you know the ins and outs of rhubarb, the next time you see it at the market, grab a few stalks and get cooking!
Sarah Harper is a Registered Dietitian, creator, and one of many eaters behind The Addy Bean. She is also an avid hiker, a registered yoga instructor, and a former nursing home dietitian.
Based in Hood River, Oregon, Sarah lives with her husband Jacob, her dog Huey and her blog’s namesake – her cat Adeline.