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Tasty Tuesday by Anna Grindeland, RD, CD: Rhubarb Revisited

By: Anna Grindeland, RD, CD

Believe it or not, rhubarb is considered a vegetable—not a fruit! The part of the rhubarb plant we eat is the thick, red-colored stalk between the root and the leaf. If you have a rhubarb plant of your own, you will know it is ripe when the stalks are at least a foot in length, red, and the leaves are the size of an elephant's ear.

The deep red color in rhubarb stems is due to phytochemicals associated with benefits to cardiovascular health, cognitive function, and cancer prevention. As a vegetable, rhubarb is low in calories and high in nutrition, with only 26 calories per cup. One cup contains only 6 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, and is a significant source of vitamin K (45%--watch out if you are taking Coumadin!) Also: vitamin C, calcium, manganese and potassium. Additionally, rhubarb contains lutein, an important antioxidant that plays a role in eyesight.

Uses:

 If you have a rhubarb plant, you know that it continues to grow, producing multiple rounds of fresh red stalks in a season. Rhubarb is only found in stores in early spring, and can be expensive, as it does not keep long off the plant. Choose firm, red stalks from the store and prepare as soon as possible.

Rhubarb freezes well: Wash it well, trim off the ends and cut it into 1-inch pieces. Place in airtight plastic bag and freeze for up to 1 year. It is best to do this when rhubarb is at its freshest because it dries out quickly.

Remember: Don't eat the leaves!

RHUBARB RECIPES:

Rhubarb is typically soaked in sugar and stuffed between crumbles of buttery crust, but it has a wide array of other uses, as well! Here are some different ideas to use your rhubarb this spring:

  • Rhubarb-fruit crisp, of course! Pairs well with ice cream for dessert, or with yogurt the next morning for breakfast:

Instead of loading rhubarb with sugar to make it sweet, mix ½ and ½ with a naturally sweet fruit like strawberries or peaches. Toss 4-6 cups of your favorite rhubarb and fruit mix with 2 Tbsp flour, ¼ cup sugar, zest of 1 lemon, and place in a buttered oven-proof dish. With your hands or a fork, toss together 1 cup flour, 1 cup rolled oats, ¼ cup packed brown sugar and 1 stick of butter. Crumble over the top. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes until the filling boils and the top is crispy.

  • One of my favorite weeknight fixes is sausage—it cooks fast and easy and goes great with those vegetables that aren't always begging to be eaten:

Heat oil in a pan over medium heat, add 1 diced shallot and about 1 cup finely chopped rhubarb stems. Wash and chop about 1 pound of chard stems and leaves, add the stems first and the leaves later (they will cook faster). When all are cooked soft and vibrant in color, add salt and pepper to taste and a dash of ground mustard for flavor… Cook your sausages/brats/chicken sausages any way you're used to and enjoy with a fork and knife or piled on a bun.

  • Rhubarb tea can be used to ease constipation or liver-related problems:

Simmer ½ stalk of chopped rhubarb pieces in 2 cups of water for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add 1 teaspoon dried mint or chamomile leaves and let steep for 5 additional minutes. Honey can be added to taste.

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The information found in the Health Library is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice nor does it represent the views or position of WHMC. Readers should always consult with their healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment, including for specific medical needs.