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Rhubarb: A Vegetable for Dessert!

Rhubarb: A Vegetable for Dessert!

If you enjoy eating fresh, locally grown fruit, early spring is probably not your favorite time of year. Unless you live in Florida or Southern California, pickings can be mighty slim during the months between when the last apples drop from the trees in autumn and the first berries begin to pop up in early summer.  But you can satisfy your sweet tooth right now with one of spring’s earliest growing vegetables.

Technically an herb, rhubarb is generally considered a fruit for culinary purposes. It grows in crispy, fibrous stalks with leafy tops, similar to celery, and is usually pink to bright red in color.

Though the leaves are toxic, the stalks are edible, and are a springtime favorite. Their tart flavor makes a wonderful complement for sweeter flavors, including strawberries. Many people also enjoy eating raw rhubarb stalks dipped in sugar!

Where Does Rhubarb Grow?

Rhubarb grows best in northern climates, because it requires temperatures below 40° F to stimulate growth. It generally comes into season in late April or early May, and can be harvested throughout the summer.

Want to grow your own rhubarb? See how it’s done!

Rhubarb Recipes

Enjoy nature’s dessert vegetable with some of these sweet rhubarb treats:

Rhubarb Marmalade

A vintage recipe that’s delicious on your morning toast, on pancakes or waffles, or spooned over vanilla ice cream.

6 cups chopped rhubarb
6 cups sugar
2 medium oranges

Combine rhubarb and sugar in a large saucepan. Grind the oranges, peels and all, in a food processor. Add to rhubarb mixture. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring often, until the marmalade sheets from a spoon, about 1 hour. Pour into hot jars, leaving 1/4” headspace. Adjust caps. Process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes. Or consume right away.


Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour, sifted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 lb. fresh rhubarb
1 pint strawberries
2 tablespoons butter

3 cups flour, sifted
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup vegetable shortening
8 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons melted butter

To make the pie crust, sift flour and salt into a medium bowl. Cut in shortening with a fork or pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle cold water, one tablespoon at a time and mix lightly with a fork just until the pastry holds together and leaves sides of bowl clean. Make a ball. Flatten it. Wrap the dough in plastic and store in the refrigerator until ready for use.

Preheat your oven to 425° F. Mix sugar, flour, cinnamon, and cloves in a bowl. Wash rhubarb, trim ends, and cut into 1″ pieces. Measure out six cups and set aside. Wash strawberries, hull and halve them. Measure out four cups and place them in a large bowl, along with the rhubarb cubes. Place both in a large bowl. Sprinkle with sugar mixture and toss lightly to mix. Let stand 15 minutes.

Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and separate it into two sections, one slightly larger than the other. Roll the larger one out into a 14” circle on a lightly floured surface, and the other into a 10” circle. Place the 14” crust at the bottom of a greased 10” pie pan.

Toss the rhubarb mixture once more before pouring it into the pastry. Cover the filling with the 10” crust and crimp the edges of the two crusts together. Brush the top with melted butter, sprinkle with sugar, and cut a small vent. Bake for about 40 minutes, until pastry is golden. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Celebrate National Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Day on June 9th!

Rhubarb Muffins

2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups diced rhubarb
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease two 12-cup muffin pans or line them with cupcake wrappers. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the brown sugar, oil, egg, vanilla, and buttermilk with an electric mixer until smooth. Pour in the dry ingredients and mix by hand until blended. Stir in the rhubarb and walnuts. Spoon the batter into the prepared cups, filling almost to the top. In a small bowl, stir together the melted butter, white sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of this mixture on top of each muffin. Bake until the tops of the muffins spring back when lightly pressed, about 25 minutes. Cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from pans.



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  • D. Smith says:

    Personally, I like cherry rhubarb pie. I just use a can of cherry pie filling (unless it’s fresh BLACK CHERRY season, then I use those after they’ve been mashed a bit and soaked in sugar) and then I mix that in with the rhubarb. It’s delicious and I have two kiddo’s who are allergic to strawberries, so it’s a good sub for them! Cinnamon and nutmeg mixed and sprinkled in makes it very tasty. After the pie is baked and still warm (but not still hot) I always ICE the pie with a very thin layer of powdered sugar icing. (Eyeball the amounts of powdered sugar, melted butter (about 1/2 to 1 tsp), a dash of vanilla, some whipping cream or half n’ half. Mix until the right consistency to use as a thin icing.

  • Peggy says:

    I love Rhubarb and dumplings, they are so delicious!!!

  • marie harrington says:

    For the muffins: Packed brown sugar? Can you use sour milk in stead of buttermilk? The recipe looks really good. I made a strawberry rhubarb pie yesterday and also rhubarb cobbler. I did not know that it was a veg and a herb. Interesting. My mother always called it a spring tonic.

  • Cyndi says:

    Help! Japanese knot weed is taking over. It has been covered for an entire season…came back and through the cover. It is so difficult. If anyone knows of an effective organic solution, please let me know.

  • Sharon says:

    How do you make the rhubarb tea and what pests does it deter?

  • Nancy Coty says:

    How do you make the tea and also the slush?

  • Susan says:

    How do you make the tea for deterring garden pests?

  • Kathy OConnor says:

    If you are an organic gardener.. make a rhubarb tea using the leaves to deter pests on other plants…works great, worked on an all organic farm and thats what they used.

  • Carol Bryson says:

    I’ve tried planting rhubarb three times now and it will not come back in the spring. What’s the secret? I’m a zone 5 gardener.

    • Jodi says:

      Rhubarb needs temps of less than 40 degrees in the winter to stimulate growth. Possibly your temperature stays too warm in the winter.

  • valarie fenstemaker says:

    how do you make a rhubarb slush?rhubarb in my favorite.

  • Linda Bishop says:

    Rhubarb juice will help dry up poison ivy. We have a worker who gets poison ivy really bad and he has tried every other remedy to get it to dry up but to no avail. His mother used rhubarb juice and it did dry up the poison ivy.

  • Deanna says:

    Try Rhubarb slush. Best refreshing slush ever. Adult or child friendly

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