Rhubarb is a sign of Spring!

By Joan Bahr, Dietitian and Diabetes Educator

Imagine a beautiful rhubarb pie! Or delicious rhubarb sauce!  One sign of spring is this beautiful green plant with red stalks. Have you checked the rhubarb plant in your yard?  Rhubarb makes excellent desserts, sauces, and jams/jelly.

Is Rhubarb a fruit or a vegetable? In the botany world, rhubarb is a vegetable. However, in 1947, the rhubarb plant was legally classified as a fruit. So the answer could be BOTH.

First – some rhubarb facts/trivia.

  • According to Food Network, one pound of fresh rhubarb yields three cups chopped or two cups cooked rhubarb.
  • Rhubarb was used as a medicine/healing ointment in earlier centuries. As a medicine, the main function of rhubarb was to induce vomiting.
  • Rhubarb is a relative of buckwheat, thrives in cold climates, and originated in Western China.
  • Rhubarb was very valuable – in 1542, rhubarb sold for 10 times the price of cinnamon in France. And in 1657, rhubarb sold for over twice as much as opium in England.
  • Can you imagine a song about rhubarb? Check out “Rhubarb Pie” sung by John Fogerty on YouTube. Who would have thought there was a song about Rhubarb Pie??

Rhubarb has many nutritional benefits. It is rich in fiber and phytochemicals, has no sodium or fat, and is gluten free. One cup of rhubarb has approximately 25 calories and is high in Vitamin C. Just a reminder, the leaves are poisonous.

One of my family memories is enjoying Rhubarb Juice. Grandma Bahr would take the rhubarb stalks and make MANY gallons of rhubarb juice. The juice was the base of the punch for our family gatherings throughout the year.

How to enjoy rhubarb:

There are many ways to enjoy rhubarb. It can be used raw in a variety of recipes – or it can be chopped into pieces and frozen for use during the winter. January 23 is National Rhubarb Day – is it a subtle reminder to use the rhubarb stored in the freezer? Maybe! Below I have listed a few ways to enjoy rhubarb:

  • Rhubarb sauce – delicious over ice cream
  • Rhubarb crisp, cake, or dessert  (which can also be served with ice cream)
  • Rhubarb breads, muffins, and of course  – PIE
  • And – SO MANY different kinds of rhubarb pie –
    • Traditional two crust rhubarb pie, crumb top pie, rhubarb custard pie, rhubarb meringue pie, rhubarb cream pie, and sour cream rhubarb pie to name a few

Rhubarb recipes are very prevalent on the Internet. A few of my favorite resources for recipes are Taste of Home and Food Network. I was lucky many years ago and purchased an ENTIRE cookbook of rhubarb recipes. My family’s favorite recipe is Rhubarb Crisp, which I share with you below!

Rhubarb Crisp – from  the Ritzy Rhubarb Secrets Cookbook – 1993 – third printing

3 cups rhubarb, cut up

2 cups sugar

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon soft butter

1 egg

Combine rhubarb and one cup sugar. Place in buttered 9×9 pan and put into 325-degree oven to heat through while mixing the topping. Mix together one cup sugar, flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in soft butter and egg beaten with a fork. Stir only until lumpy. Sprinkle this topping over the rhubarb and bake about 45 minutes in 325-degree oven.  That’s all there is to it! Enjoy!


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