Rhubarb and Spring Go Hand in Hand
Beautiful red stalks of rhubarb have arrived at Earl’s signaling the beginning of spring. Often thought of as a fruit, rhubarb is actually a vegetable that can traced back to 2700 BC in China where it was used for medicinal purposes. Rhubarb is a perennial herb grown from a crown, similar to asparagus, and will continue to produce up to 15 years. Rhubarb is very weather dependent and needs a summer temperature of 75° or below for maximum production. Once the temperatures reach 90° or above the plant will start to wilt.
Rhubarb grows best in the northern regions of the United States. It can be found grown on a commercial level in Oregon, Washington and Michigan. Rhubarb from the Pacific Northwest is all field grown and the season runs from late March until the end of June. The Michigan season begins in April with hothouse grown rhubarb and later moves to field grown.
Only eat the leaf stalks or petioles. This is one vegetable where you do not want to use the whole plant. The leaves can be considered poisonous due to their high levels of oxalic acid.
How to buy
Look for bright red stalks which have a sweet rich flavor. The size of the stalk is not an indicator of tenderness!
Rhubarb is 95% water and high in potassium and vitamin c.
Storage and Cooking
Wrap loosely in plastic and store in the coldest part of your refrigerator. Do not keep for more than a few days or it will start to dry out. Place the stalks in cold water for about an hour to refresh them before cooking.
Rhubarb is very tart and acidic and will make your mouth pucker up if you eat it out of hand. Just add honey or sugar to transform it into a delicious dessert or savory dish. We like pairing rhubarb with strawberries in a pie or making a compote to top yogurt or vanilla ice cream. My favorite recipe is a refreshing rhubarb shake topped with chopped pistachios.