Rhubarb

By EAT SMARTER
Updated on 22. Apr. 2020
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While rhubarb might be primarily known as a sweet ingredient for pies and jams, it’s actually a nutrient-packed vegetable. Read up on everything you need to know about this versatile ingredient below. 


 

Rhubarb…

  • …can help you lose weight. With very few calories and almost no fat, rhubarb is an ideal ingredient if you’re trying to lose weight.
  • …can help detoxify. Rhubarb’s rich supply of tannins can help the body eliminate toxins more quickly.
  • …aids in digestion. Rhubarb’s potent mix of malic and oxalic acids helps digestion run more smoothly. Naturopaths have long used rhubarb as a natural laxative.
  • …is a natural antibacterial. The high concentration of malic and oxalic acid in rhubarb helps eliminate pathogenic bacteria in the stomach and intestines.
  • ...is great as a preservative. Rhubarb contains the soluble fibre pectin, which naturally causes liquids to gel.
  • ...isn't for everyone. If you have kidney problems, gallstones or suffer from rheumatism or gout, you should avoid rhubarb because of its high oxalic acid content.

What You Should Know About Rhubarb

Rhubarbs take a good amount of effort and patience to cultivate. As early as January, you’ll find rhubarb farmers stretching foil over their fields, creating a kind of natural greenhouse in which rhubarb grows particularly fast. Around the beginning of March, the foil is removed and the rhubarb is allowed to grow without frost protection. If it is left in the field longer, the rhubarb stalks become thicker, more fibrous and more acidic. As a result rhubarb is generally harvested when it is still young and tender.

Origins

Rhubarb originates in Tibet and Mongolia.

Seasonality

The first young rhubarb is available at the end of March or - depending on the weather - at the beginning of April. From there its season lasts about three months, ending in mid to late June.

Flavor

Rhubarb is very tart, and thus is rarely eaten raw. As a rule of thumb, the more intense the red colour of the rhubarb stalk, the less sour it will taste.

Find all our rhubarb recipes here.

How Healthy Is Rhubarb?

Rhubarb’s abundance of malic and citric acid is great for digestion, and its mix of vitamin C and several minerals helps support healthy immune system function. Rhubarb’s high levels of oxalic acid, however, can make it hard on the body for people with kidney disease, rheumatism or gout. Those suffering from these conditions should not eat rhubarb frequently. should take rhubarb with caution, as should children.

Rhubarb has been used in naturopathy in some Asian cultures for centuries, where it is utilized to help cleanse the blood and remove toxins from the body. 

With only 13 calories per 100 gram serving, rhubarb has one of the lowest calorie counts of any vegetable. 

Rhubarb Nutritional Info (100 g)  
Calories 13
Protein 0.6 g
Fat 0.1 g
Carbohydrates 1.3 g
Fiber 3.2 g

Shopping and Cooking Tips

Purchasing

When shopping for rhubarb, look out for stems that are firm and slightly shiny with a beautiful pinkish-red color. The leaves should look fresh and not dried out.

Storage

Store rhubarb as you would asparagus, wrapped in a damp cloth and kept in the refrigerator. This will keep your rhubarb fresh for several days. Rhubarb also freezes well. 
 

Preparation

If rhubarb is young and very tender, just rinse it off, cut off the leaf base and cut the stem into pieces. Older, more thick stems tend to be more fibrous and tough, so should be peeled. 

What To Make With Rhubarb

Whether in a jam or coke, the unique acidity of rhubarb creates a delicious contrast in sweet dishes. 

However rhubarb also tastes great in savory dishes, especially as a side to meat, fish and poultry. Rhubarb is also a tasty addition to salads. Remember rhubarb is very difficult to digest raw, so should always be at least briefly steamed before eating. 

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