Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable that grows naturally in Prince Edward Island and has been cultivated throughout Europe. Rhubarb’s native habitat is the temperate climate of Canada, but it can also be found in small quantities in Mexico and the United States.
Yes, you read that right: rhubarb is not actually a fruit but a vegetable from the Buckwheat family! Rhubarb is a delicious and versatile plant that can be cooked in a number of ways. It’s easy to grow, and you can even harvest it from your own garden—but beware: it can be dangerous if you don’t know how to handle the leaves and stems.
Rhubarb has bright red stalks and green leaves, which are toxic. While rhubarb may look like it’s related to strawberries (and many people have mistaken them for each other) they’re actually quite different. The tartness of rhubarb comes from its high concentration of oxalic acid—so if you’re sensitive to sour flavors or have kidney stones or gout, be careful how much you eat!
Rhubarb is also packed with vitamin C and vitamin K, making it one of those “superfoods” we keep hearing about these days.
You can eat rhubarb raw or cooked, but I recommend cooking it. If you eat it raw, it will taste like leaves or grass (don’t shoot the messenger.) You’ll get more out of your rhubarb if you cook it first!
The best way to cook rhubarb is to bake it into a pie filling or stewed with strawberries, plums, and other fruits. Just make sure not to overcook your rhubarb because then it’ll lose its flavour and become mushy.
Being that rhubarb is so versatile, it can be substituted with several other fruits, including strawberries and apples. When substituting rhubarb in desserts for another fruit, use the same amount as that the recipe calls for. For example:
Rhubarb Brownies: Substitute 2 cups fresh (unchopped) rhubarb for 2 cups chopped apples in your favourite brownie recipe.
Rhubarb Pie Filling: Substitute 1 pound fresh (unchopped) rhubarb for 1 pound of fresh strawberries in your favorite pie filling recipe.
You might also be surprised to learn that rhubarb pairs well with savoury foods and can be used in savoury recipes. It’s great in sauces and chutneys too, and don’t forget about salads! Rhubarb can be saucy deliciousness in salsa, as well.
Although rhubarb has a short growing season, you can enjoy it all year round by canning and preserving it! Enjoy!
Strawberry Rhubarb with Banana Cashew Cream (serves 2):
1 cup rhubarb, diced
1 cup strawberries, sliced
¾ cup raw cashews (soaked for 1 hour and drained)
½ cup water
1 large banana
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Place rhubarb and strawberries in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally for about 10 minutes or until rhubarb starts to break down and a sauce starts to form.
Turn off the heat and set aside to cool while you prepare the rest.
Combine the soaked and drained cashews, water, banana and cinnamon in a blender. Blend well, until smooth and creamy.
Divide the stewed strawberries and rhubarb into small ramekins or jars and spoon the cashew banana cream over the top.
Garnish with shredded coconut, almonds, fruit or shaved chocolate.