Rhubarb: The Pie Plant

Rhubarb may be a vegetable, but we mostly treat it like a fruit, its tart taste being the perfect foil for strawberries and other sweet fruits.

Temper the Tartness
Often too tart on its own, rhubarb pairs wonderfully with other fruits to create a complex sweet-tart flavor. Berries, apples, oranges, and peaches are all good choices.

The Pie Plant
Try substituting up to half of the fruit in your favorite dessert recipe with chopped rhubarb (you may need to add extra sugar). Looking for more flavorful ideas? Rhubarb is also complemented by ginger, vanilla, cinnamon, orange, lime, and mint.

Fresh Rhubarb Pie

Photo by Jody

Other Rhubarb Treats
Apart from pies, tarts, crisps, and cobblers, rhubarb is wonderful in quick breads, cakes, ice cream, or sorbet. Rhubarb sauces or chutneys can be matched with both sweet and savory dishes.

Bifana

Photo by Scott M.

Picking and Preparing Your Rhubarb
Different varieties of rhubarb will be deep crimson, rosy pink, or even pink-streaked green when fully ripe. If you’re selecting rhubarb in the grocery store, choose medium-sized stalks that are firm and blemish-free. Avoid anything that’s limp, shriveled, or spotted brown. Rhubarb stalks are stringy like celery; the texture will break down during cooking, so de-stringing is not necessary.

Storing Tips: Save It for Later
Fresh rhubarb will keep for up to a week if you store it carefully. Wrap it tightly in plastic, put it in the refrigerator, and don’t wash it until you’re ready to use it.

If you’ve got a bumper crop of rhubarb and want to freeze it to use year-round, prepare it by washing and cutting it into 1-inch pieces. Drop the pieces into boiling water for one minute, and then stop the cooking by “shocking” it: scoop rhubarb out with a slotted spoon or sieve and plunge it immediately into ice water. Drain the cooled rhubarb pieces, spread them out on baking sheets and transfer them to the freezer. Once the rhubarb is frozen solid, you can store it in heavy-duty plastic bags for up to a year.

Or bake fresh rhubarb into coffee cakes, muffins, sauces and the like, and freeze it in ready-to-eat forms instead.

Cobblers, Crisps, and Quick Breads

More Rhubarb Desserts

Rhubarb Cheesecake

Photo by s.cirasunda

Cooking Tip
Rhubarb is highly acidic–in fact, some people swear the best way to clean a stained pot is to cook rhubarb in it. To avoid a chemical reaction, use a stainless steel, glass, enameled, or nonstick pan. Aluminum or uncoated iron pans will turn the mixture gray.

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