I just released my delicious rhubarb syrup and now, in this week’s TOW, I would like to share some interesting facts about rhubarb itself. Uncreative, but fitting.
The Latin name rhubarb is “rheum barbarum” and means “root of the barbarians”. The interestingly named polygonaceae is a vegetable. This surprised me a bit, because I, like many others, use rhubarb mostly for cakes and desserts, like a fruit. However, we actually eat a part of the plant and not the actual fruit stand: team vegetables. On the other hand, rhubarb is perennial: team fruit. Well, most of us are not pedantic biologists, so let’s skip that and enjoy this tasty veggie in our cake.
In my head rhubarb is green on the inside and red on the outside. My head, however, is subject to an error that was shaped by a single plant in my parents’ garden. Of course, there are those rhubarbs I’ve just described. However, in addition, there are two other varieties: a completely red rhubarb, with red flesh, red skin and a fruity taste as well as a completely green rhubarb, with green flesh, green skin and a tart taste. The rule for all is, the younger you harvest your stalk, the milder they will be.
And this leads us to the next topic: how to properly harvest rhubarb? If you have a plant in your garden, start with making sure that the stems are at least 10” long and smooth. Take a stalk in your hand, close to the base and harvest them with a result little twist (away from the plant). In order not to weaken your plant too much, don’t harvest more than half of the perennial per year.
The season in which we are allowed to enjoy rhubarb is limited to the period from early April to late May. Weather dependent harvest is possible throughout June. In July the rhubarb plants are ready for their annual break. The oxalic acid in the stems increases so much that the consumption is no longer recommended.
Some people are afraid that the oxalic acid in rhubarb could cause health problems. If you’re aware how to enjoy it properly you don’t have to worry and are able to savor the fantastic healthy sides of rhubarb: it contains a lot of vitamin C and has few calories. On the one hand, there is oxalic acid and it increases steadily during the growth phase, on the other hand, it is, in combination with apple and citric acid responsible for the wonderful tart taste. If you eat it during the season and at normal consumption levels, it won’t harm you at all and is the perfect addition to your diet. Cook the rhubarb well and enjoy it in combination with a milk product, this way the acid can be reduced as far as possible.
As already mentioned, rhubarb is quite an addition to cakes and desserts. The acid balances sweet flavors wonderfully. The combination creates a freshness making it a perfect fit for spring. If you are still wondering what to do with the delicious vegetables, just think of the points just mentioned: in season, not too much, cook it, pair with a dairy product. And with this, a whole cornucopia of possibilities arises: rhubarb tarte tatin with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream with rhubarb compote, rhubarb and strawberry jam on a cream cheese rolls, rhubarb syrup in sparkling wine with some strawberry-mozzarella-skewers on the side … Feel free to reach out to me if you can’t find anything in this small collection. However, I have to warn you: I could get into raptures!