Rhubarb is grown primarily for its fleshy stalks, technically known as petioles. The use of rhubarb stems as food is a relatively recent innovation, first recorded in 17th century England, after affordable sugar became available to common people, and reaching a peak between the 20th century's two world wars. Sometimes thought as a fruit it is indeed a vegetable
Commonly, it is stewed with sugar or used in pies and desserts, but it can also be put into savoury dishes or pickled. Rhubarb can be dehydrated and infused with fruit juice. In most cases, it is infused with strawberry juice to mimic the popular strawberry rhubarb pie.
Rhubarb root produces a rich brown dye similar to walnut husks. It is used in northern regions where walnut trees do not survive.
Benefits of the Rhubarb
- Useful source of potassium
- Rhubarb leaves contain poisonous substances, including oxalic acid which is a nephrotoxic and corrosive acid that is present in many plants.
- May aggravate joint problems in those that suffer with arthritis or gout.
- For cooking, the stalks are often cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces and stewed (boil in water); it is necessary only to barely cover the stalks with water because rhubarb stalks contain a great deal of water on their own.
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup of sugar is added for each pound of rhubarb
- Spices such as cinnamon and/or nutmeg can be added to taste.
- Sometimes a tablespoon of lime juice or lemon juice is added. The sliced stalks are boiled until soft. An alternative method is to simmer slowly without adding water, letting the rhubarb cook in its own juice.
- Roasting with a couple of tablespoons of water and a good sprinkling of sugar over the top is another great method.