Rhubarb is a mysterious plant, and spring’s biggest challenge. It is a plant that grows well throughout Wyoming. As for taste, rhubarb very tart. It is tart like a cranberry but with the raw texture of celery.
Rhubarb season only lasts a few months, so enjoy it fresh when it is available. In our area, rhubarb’s peak season lasts from approximately April to early July.
Rhubarb is classified as a vegetable, but it is commonly used as a fruit in baking and cooking. Depending on the variety, rhubarb can have green or pink to red stalks and leaves that are very large and green. The only part of the plant that is edible is the stalk; the leaves are unsafe to eat and must be removed and discarded. The tart-flavored stalks are typically served sweetened and cooked.
Do you know how to harvest rhubarb? It is important to wait to harvest rhubarb until the stalks of the plant are at least ten inches long. This will ensure that the plant has established itself well enough for the year to be able to tolerate being harvested. While technically, you can keep harvesting rhubarb until fall, keep in mind that the rhubarb plant needs to store energy for the winter. Significantly slow or stop harvesting in early July. When harvesting rhubarb, you can cut the stalks using a knife or shears, or you can gently pull the stalk and bend it to the side until it breaks. It is crucial never to harvest all of the stalks from the rhubarb plant.
Rhubarb has celery-like stalks that are pinkish green. When selecting rhubarb, the stalks should be crisp with shiny skins. This indicates freshness. If the stalks have split ends and are limp, they are not fresh. Select stalks that have stalks that are well-colored and free of cuts or blemishes.
When storing rhubarb, the leaves need to be removed from the rhubarb stalks. Place the stalks, unwashed into an airtight plastic bag or wrap in plastic. It can then be stored for up to seven days in the refrigerator. Store the stalks whole; cut pieces of rhubarb will dry out quickly during storage.
If you need to store the rhubarb longer than seven days, it can be frozen. To freeze rhubarb, cut the stalks into one-inch pieces and then package in airtight, freezer-safe bags. The rhubarb can also be stewed before freezing, but do not sweeten the rhubarb before freezing.
To prepare rhubarb, trim the leaves. Due to toxic levels of oxalic acid, discard the leaves. Never eat them! The stalks should be washed and leaves cut off before use. Place the ends of the stalks in cold water for an hour before cooking; this will refresh the stalks before you use them. When the stalks of the plant are wider than 1 inch, cut them in half or thirds lengthwise. Another important preparation step is removing any fibrous strings from the stalks. Using a knife or a vegetable peeler, remove areas of the stalk that have blemishes. Cut the stalks crosswise into 1/4 to 2-inch pieces according to the recipe.
The tart flavor of rhubarb lends itself to sweet pairings. It’s often used in fruit preserves, sauces, pies, muffins, quick breads, and cakes. Rhubarb can be used as a substitute for cranberries as well as other fruit in recipes. To make the substitution, use rhubarb for half of the fruit in your favorite crisp and cobbler recipes and adjust sweetness as desired.
Rhubarb can be roasted, sauteed, stewed, or pureed. Rhubarb should not be eaten raw. The tough, fibrous texture is too hard to chew.
Simmer sweetened rhubarb into a sauce and serve over ice cream, French toast, pancakes, or waffles. Rhubarb sauce is also delicious when paired with meat.
Accent flavors like caramel, cinnamon, ginger, maple, orange juice, orange zest, and vanilla, as well as brown sugar, make an excellent complement. Nuts provide great textural contrast.
One pound of rhubarb will equal approximately 3 cups of chopped and 2 cups cooked rhubarb. A 12-ounce package of frozen rhubarb equals about 1 1/2 cups. Celebrate spring’s bounty with delicious rhubarb-studded recipes. For any meal, there are great ways to incorporate rhubarb.
- https://snaped.fns.usda.gov; University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service; www.splendidtable.org; www.tablespoon.com
Dreamy Rhubarb Peach Bars
- 2 cups flour
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 cup butter room temperature
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups rhubarb chopped 1/2” pieces
- 2 cups peaches chopped 1/2” pieces
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper or spray with non-stick baking spray.
- Wash and dry the fruit. Chop the rhubarb and peaches; set aside.
- In a food processor, mix shortbread crust ingredients. Press the crust into the pan. Bake for 15 minutes and remove from the oven.
- While the crust is baking, using an electric mixer, beat together the eggs, sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla. Stir in the rhubarb and peaches. Pour the filling mixture onto the hot crust and evenly spread.
- Bake the bars for 45 minutes. Remove the bars from the oven.
- Cool before cutting and serving. Store leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container.