Rhubarb: More than just a Pie Sidekick

Confession…I am a complete rhubarb newbie.

A vegetable in my pie never intrigued me, my family never bought it and I never sought out ways to cook with the tart veg. But now that the red celery stalk is popping up at grocery stores and in markets I am starting to give the infamous pie plant a second look. Rhubarb, you need some quality attention. Yes. You. Do.

Since rhubarb is new to me I did some research on buying, cooking and eating spring’s sassy ingredient. Here is a little rhubarb 101:

Rhubarb Flavor

Pucker up. The springtime “fruit” (though it is technically a vegetable) may bring on the pucker-tartness of a Sour Patch Kid, but it mellows out when cooked. Rhubarb’s sourness is actually flattered when mixed with other ingredients and so the intense flavor can be refreshingly tart, soothingly sweet or savory heaven. Think of eating a green apple with salt with the fibrous crunch of celery. When cooked, the crisp texture becomes oh-so-meltingly soft and scrumptious.

Rhubarb Nutrition

May look like celery, but the health benefits are different! Rhubarb supplies a healthy dose of calcium, lutein (for those healthy eyes) and vitamin C and K. The vibrant red color is more than just eye candy and actually is a sign of the powerful antioxidant compoundsthat the rhubarb hosts.

Beautiful little rhubarb niblets

Purchasing Rhubarb

Your rhubarb stalks should always be crisp with shiny, bright skin. Deep red stalks are sweeter and richer. Avoid dry, rubbery or limp stalks and choose those that are free of any blemishes or cuts. Store your rhubarb in the refrigerator in a plastic bag and nosh on them within a week of purchase.

Rhubarb in Overdrive

With rhubarb’s assertive taste and slew of health benefits, you wouldn’t think the tangy spring stalk would have more to offer…but it does! Rhubarb has medicinal properties like being used as a strong laxative, a safe-to-humans pesticide that is gardener approved, can be used as a non-toxic scrub to clean pots and pans and can even be used as a hair dye. No joke. Rhubarb has a bigger than vegetable personality if you ask me!

Healthy Rhubarb Recipes

I have compiled some (more than just pie) recipes that feature rhubarb at its best and highlight the intense flavor profile it offers. It’s dessert, it’s breakfast, it’s a snack. Rhubarb is worthy of a plate celebration no matter the time of day.

Whether you love to hate (or hate to love) rhubarb, spring’s pie plant is in full in-season action right now. Get out of the newbie zone with me! Get up close and personal with the funky red stalk.

Do you love or hate rhubarb? What are some of your favorite rhubarb recipes? Tell us below.

Feature photo and Photo 2 via whitneyinchicago via Flickr (CC BY 3.0)


  1. I am a rhubarb lover and just planted some in my yard for an organic rhubarb experience. I am delighted to hear these great facts about rhubarb and can’t wait to harvest mine.

    Good to know the leaves are poisonous, I will be sure to let the kids know (not that they would touch the stuff with a 10 foot pole….knowingly!)

    I am on for that roasted rhubarb salad. Thanks for sharing these great tips I apparently truly needed to know!

    • I want to come over and eat out of your garden! How fresh and amazing. Cook some up and serve it inconspicuously to the kids…I bet they will love it unbeknownst to them. 🙂

  2. Hi Talia,

    I used to be a rhubarb hater, but since it keeps coming up in abundance in my garden every spring (despite me trying every year to pull it out by the roots!), I’ve decided to go with the flow. Plus I hate to waste food and I love getting things for free!

    I don’t like the bitterness, but if I cook it with another fruit (blackberries are great for mellowing it out) I find I don’t mind it so much.

    I’ve made the requisite crisps with it, but have also baked it into cheesecakes and used it to top my morning oats.

    Thanks for the new recipe ideas. Off to go chop a few stalks for dinner!

    • I didn’t know that it was so hard to get rhubarb out of your garden! Although, I am glad to hear that you are going with the “red celery” flow. A rhubarb sauce made with blackberries/strawberries on my morning oats or in my Cho would be amazing. Mmm…maybe you will do a post about a new recipe!

      • Well, I just made rhubarb and strawberry scones (I’m on a scone thing right now 🙂 ). They’re cooling and we’ll have them for dessert tonight (not officially a dessert night, but it’s a holiday, so it’ll do!).
        I’ll let you know how they turned out. If they pass the test, I’ll post the recipe on my blog!

  3. I just stewed up some rhubarb for the first time this weekend! I’d never even eaten, much less cooked it. I really liked the taste but didn’t love the texture, so next time my CSA delivery blesses me with a lot of rhubarb perhaps I’ll try some new cooking methods out…

    • I am like that with some food too…texture is a major issue. Definitely try to soften the rhubarb to rid yourself of any of that celery-like texture. A rhubarb sauce sounds more like your thing! Glad you tried something new:)

  4. Stewed rhubarb is amazing. I love to either make stewed strawberry rhubarb or stew it on its own. It is very versatile, can be used a a jam and is wonderful in yogurt or as an ice cream topper. Glad it is finally in season!

    • I was surprised to see how versatile rhubarb is! Many of us steer clear of rhubarb because we think it is only for pie, but it can do so much more. An ice cream topper sounds fab!

  5. I just found your blog from Miz’s site, and I love your blog! I grew up eating rhubarb, but as an adult, just don’t seem to make it much (though my mom makes it all the time). My mom made a mulberry and rhubarb jam that I absolutely loved. She makes rhubarb crisp (similar to apple crisp) and rhubarb pie as well.

    • I’m glad you made your way over Lori! Thanks for the compliments. Maybe you can make your mom’s famous jam for a nostalgic cook session that can last for many meals…a little of that jam in my oatmeal would be delicious. If you make it, share!

  6. Oh wowww I feel like I just learned A LOT!!!! Oh goodness I had no idea what rhubarb was even! dohhh I thought it was some kind of sauce this whole time -_-” lol! Thanks for this post and I really would love to try it someday! I’m looking forward to purchasing it [hopefully] next time I’m at the store. 😀

  7. I have to admit I see this every year at the Farmer’s Market, and I have always walked on past…ignoring that small voice telling me to stop and give it a try!

    I’m such a veggie lover that I’m mosdef going to try the breakfast crisp and roasted salad topping versions!

    Thanks Talia for making that making it easy to try something new!

  8. Hi Talia. The picture you’ve used at the top of this article is of chard, not rhubarb. Confusingly, the red-stemmed variety is sometimes known as “rhubarb chard”. It’s a leafy vegetable with colourful stalks.

    • Hi Isabel! Thanks for letting me know…you are right, they do look VERY similar. I guess I was led astray by some of the pictures that came up. I updated to a new photo that should fit the bill. Thanks for stopping by BSW!


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