Information about Rhubarb plus Rhubarb Recipes
of the Month
(genus Rheum) belongs to the plant family Polygonaceae and is a very old
plant. Contrary to popular belief, it is classed as a vegetable, not a
fruit, being a close relative of garden Sorrel although in the western world it
is still more usually used in desserts.
and History of Rhubarb
is the plant name for the many different species (about 70) of Rheum. It
originated in Asia, in particular China and Tibet, with the earliest records
relating to its use dating back to 2700BC when it was mainly cultivated for
medicinal purposes, in particular for its purgative qualities. Whilst it's
believed that by the 1500s it was being used in Europe for its medicinal
properties, one of the first records found of its culinary use in Europe dates
back to 1608. However, it was not officially recorded as a culinary plant
in Europe until the mid/late 1700s and the plant used was probably a cross
matching of Rheum rhaponticum, Rheum undulatum and possibly also Rheum palmatum.
The Medieval Latin the name "reubarbarum" literally translates to
"barbarian rhubarb". By the early 1800s it was introduced to and
widely used in the United States.
is a perennial plant, i.e. a plant which returns to growth every year, getting
larger each growing season. The plant produces large fleshy rhizomes with very
large leaves and long, thick stalks (petioles) ranging from red tinged green to
bright red and grows to a height of about 90cm/3 feet. It is the stalks which
are eaten and prized by chefs. Important: Rhubarb leaves contains
oxalate, which have been reported to cause poisoning when large quantities of
raw or cooked leaves are ingested. It is therefore advisable not to eat the
leaves at all.
can be grown from seed, potted plants, or from root divisions that contain one
or more buds and should be grown in well-drained, fertile soil that receives
direct sunlight most of the day. It is best to wait 2 years before starting to
harvest rhubarb but once it is established, you can pull stems each spring until
the end of June. The plants do produce flowers however it's best to remove these
so that the plant doesn't waste it's energies producing seed.
their stems are never poisonous (unlike the leaves as mentioned above),
they do get "woody" late in the season, so pick whilst still tender.
It is perfectly safe to throw the leaves into a compost pile provided you allow
them to totally break down when they will lose their toxicity.
and storage of Rhubarb
rhubarb should be trimmed of all leaf material, wrapped in clingfilm and
refrigerated when it will keep for 2-3 weeks. When ready to use, prepare as per
individual recipes. Fresh rhubarb can also be preserved as a jam, conserve or
relish. See below for recipes.
freeze, choose, firm, tender, well-coloured stalks. Wash, trim and cut
into 1- or 2-inch pieces in lengths. Blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes, cool
quickly in cold water to retain colour and flavour, drain well and pack into
containers, leaving 12mm/ 1/2-inch headspace. Seal, label and freeze.
Alternatively, pack cooked rhubarb as above lightly into containers and cover
with cold 50-percent syrup (1 part sugar to 1 part water). Freeze as above.
Rhubarb is a good store cupboard standby
which makes a suitable addition
to sauces and desserts calling for stewed rhubarb.
mentioned above, rhubarb is more widely used in sweet dishes however below
we have some interesting savoury recipes too. It goes surprisingly well
with some meats, poultry and fish and these recipes are well worth trying.