Because it rarely makes an appearance outside of a crust, rhubarb is sometimes referred to as the pie plant. The bright red stalks are easy to find in markets in spring and summer, but rhubarb used to be so sought after in medieval Europe that it was more expensive than saffron and opium. Today, it’s an inexpensive treat with a lot of nutritional clout.
The plant is almost intolerably tart on its own, which is why it’s often paired with strawberries, ginger, or sugar to balance and tame the sharp, acidic taste. As good luck would have it, the seasons for strawberries and rhubarb are one and the same.
Rhubarb is a good source of potassium, vitamin K, and manganese.
- Manganese plays a vital role in metabolism and is essential to antioxidant pathways within your body.
- Vitamin K is needed for normal blood coagulation and optimal bone health.
- Potassium concentrations are tightly controlled within the body, and without adequate potassium intake, normal body function is lost.
Rhubarb also contains a significant amount of calcium, but other compounds present in the plant make it difficult for our body to access this calcium content. Because of this, rhubarb is not considered a good source of calcium.
Remember to cut off and discard the leaves before preparing and eating rhubarb because they are a concentrated source of oxalic acid, which can be harmful to humans in high amounts.
Rhubarb stalks can be slender or fat, but this does not change their uniquely tart taste. They should be crisp and unblemished with a striped mix of pink and pale green at the top turning into deep crimson towards the root end. Think celery with a sunburn. If your grocery sells rhubarb with the leaves still attached make sure you are paying by the bunch and not by weight, since the leaves will be discarded. Look for leaves that are crisp and dark green to ensure delicious stalks.
The perfect strawberry rhubarb pie or crumble is the most delicious way to know that spring has sprung. Try making our Rhubarb Ginger Crumble. Or, if you’re in the mood for simplicity, make our quick and easy Microwave Rhubarb Strawberry Compote.
Because rhubarb is naturally tart, you can experiment with the amount of sugar you add as you go, slowly adding sugar until you get your perfect blend of sweet and sour. With or without other fruit, cooked rhubarb is great as a topping for plain yogurt or vanilla ice cream.