Before the berries, the melons and bushels of apples, there’s a spring crop that often gets overlooked.
Have you had rhubarb?
This spring market find is often used in pies and desserts due to their rich, tart flavor. Scientifically, it’s a vegetable, although some consider it a fruit. But don’t be thinking it’s a pink version of celery. The stalks are the only part used in cooking and baking. Their bright pink color catches eyes at farmers’ markets and supermarket shelves.
The short season of getting rhubarb fresh also makes it an essential ingredient to celebrate spring. Whether you’ve already had some experience with rhubarb or are looking to pick up your first bunch from the market, we’re here to help. Here we share some of the great benefits of rhubarb as well as some easy ways you can incorporate it into your baking.
While you may not want to be scarfing down large amounts of rhubarb daily, it can be a great addition in baked goods and other recipes.
Did you know? Rhubarb leaves are actually poisonous. They’re high in oxalate acid. So be sure to get rid of them immediately or ensure you purchase the rhubarb stalks without leaves.
It’s an interesting vegetable, or fruit, depending on how you look at it. With a distinct flavor, it’s most often used in desserts as long as other sweeteners are used.
In addition to its bright, bold color, rhubarb also comes with a few health benefits to take advantage of. It’s high in fiber, like other fruits and vegetables. It’s comparable to other fruits and vegetables like apples or celery that tend to be low in calorie count and high in fiber. Rhubarb can also be a great source of the popular vitamin C as well as vitamin K1.
This nutritional content may lead to health benefits like lower cholesterol and reducing inflammation with its antioxidant properties.
Raw rhubarb stalks can be an unpleasant experience. With its intense tart flavor, rhubarb is most often cooked or baked with a sweetener to counteract that sour element. Its unique properties can add a new dimension to an old classic recipe or combined with new flavors to discover a family favorite.
Prep your rhubarb by removing the leaves and trimming off the ends of the stalks. Keep the skin of the stalks on, as that’s where a lot of the flavor and color come from.
Remember, before doing anything with your rhubarb stalks, be sure all leaves are removed and discarded. With their toxicity levels, leaves should not be used in any amounts.
In working with your rhubarb, a key thing to remember is the importance of sweetness. The rhubarb’s intense flavor can be seemingly overpowering if not enough sugar or sweetener is added to counteract that sour punch.
Keeping those tips in mind, here are some easy things you can do with this fresh spring vegetable/fruit:
Mix up your pie baking rotation by including in a few stalks of rhubarb. Incorporating a pop of tart flavor can transform a traditional pie into a delightful culinary experience. Rhubarb pie is perhaps one of the most common uses for this bold ingredient. Like a berry or apple pie, the process of cooking the fruit/vegetable down and adding a sweetener like sugars and honey can reduce the intense tart flavor, making a delicious dessert option.
Whether you stick with just rhubarb or combine it with another fruit like strawberry and add in flavors like lemon or orange, a fruit or custard pie is an easy way to try out this bold ingredient.
If you’re looking to explore beyond a traditional, crusted pie, try out a fruit crisp or other cake recipe. The process of cooking the rhubarb down and adding in extra sugar makes it a great dessert option for any occasion.
Like other seasonal fruits, rhubarb can also be used to make a tart jam you can cook and jar to be used even when spring is over. The large quantity of sugar added to jams and jellies helps to cut the intense tart flavor and bring a balanced and delightful taste. Use your favorite jam recipe to bring a new take to rhubarb.
Pickling spring and summer veggies is nothing new. But pickling with rhubarb? Why not. Cooking up a brine with a lot of flavor and sugar can be a great way to transform rhubarb into a culinary treat. Let your rhubarb sit for a few days to really pull out the flavor of these bold ingredients. Use this pickling recipe to bring your own take to rhubarb.
For a versatile topping for ice cream, pancakes or even a mixed drink add-in, a rhubarb compote can be just the thing. A compote is essentially a cooked down fruit mixture, often with a great deal of added sugar to amp up the sweetness.
After rinsing your rhubarb well, removing all leaves and discarding, dice into small pieces. Combine rhubarb in a saucepan with 1 part water to 8 parts sugar. For example, for 6 cups of diced rhubarb, you’ll use 2 tablespoons of water and 1 cup of sugar. As rhubarb already has a high water content, you’ll want to be sure not to make your compote too runny. Simmer for about 15 minutes over medium-low heat. As the mixture cools, it’ll thicken in consistency, making a perfect drizzle for a variety of uses.
Whether you’ve never tried rhubarb or have started incorporating it into your spring baking, there’s a lot of uses for this unique fruit or vegetable. By balancing the intense tart flavor with sweeteners like sugar, honey and other fruits. Pick some up at your local farmers’ market this weekend and whip up a new springtime favorite today.
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