In some ways, rhubarb are like ramps: The food world goes crazy for them every spring and summer and, though with good reason, family cooks are left wondering what in the world do I do with this. Fret not feeder of children! You, too, can partake in the foodie fun. Here’s how to select rhubarb and use it up in ways that the kids may actually eat. And if nothing else, we have a cool fact that should pique their interest about this vegetable. (Yes, vegetable.)
Let’s start at the beginning: What exactly is rhubarb? Although it’s often treated like a fruit, you might be surprised to learn that rhubarb is a vegetable. One of the first to arrive in spring, this perennial plant is harvested for its tart red (or greenish-red) stalks. On its own, rhubarb is a bit sour, but when paired with luscious fruit or savory meats, it lends an ordinary dish a unique sweet-tart flavor.
Oh, and the rumors that rhubarb can be poisonous are only partly true. The roots and leaves of rhubarb do contain toxic levels of oxalic acid that, if eaten in large quantities, can be lethal. Yikes—but perhaps a weird, but true fact that will get the kids interested in giving rhubarb a try? Hey, anything it takes.
Top: Rhubarb Almond Cake | The Floating Kitchen
Related: A rhubarb cocktail and mocktail recipe.
How to select rhubarb:
Look for crisp, solid stalks with bright color. The color can range from bright red to green, but has no bearing on the taste. Thinner stalks are usually less stringy than thick ones and, either way, they should be fairly unblemished and have healthy looking leaves. Whatever you do, avoid limp stalks!
Keep in mind that field grown varieties found at your farmer’s market are typically more tart than the milder, hothouse-grown variety available in most major supermarkets.
How to store rhubarb:
Cut off the woody ends and leaves, and wrap unwashed stalks in damp paper towels. Place inside a plastic bag, seal, and keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
If you prefer to freeze rhubarb, wash, dry, and cut it up; I find that 1″ pieces are fairly all-purpose. Store the chopped vegetable in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months.
How to enjoy rhubarb:
I beg you to think beyond pie! Rhubarb pairs nicely with both sweet and savory: These 7 delicious recipes show you how. But, of course, let’s start with the sweets:
I recently spotted this Rhubarb Almond Cake at The Floating Kitchen and it was love at first sight. Liz mentioned eating this cake at breakfast and now every morning I daydream about how excellent the moist crumb and tart rhubarb would go with my iced coffee.
I’d be hard pressed to find children who won’t eat cake, but I imagine they’re out there somewhere and these pops are for them. The brightly colored Strawberry Rhubarb Lime Popsicles at She Likes Food are super easy and a great way to introduce rhubarb flavor to the family. A mouthwatering blend of flavors sweetened with a touch of honey makes these a perfect treat for hot summer days.
The Strawberry Rhubarb Applesauce at Super Healthy Kids makes a wholesome snack for babies and kids of all ages. Rhubarb for all! This is also a great recipe to keep on hand if you need to use up any leftover rhubarb.
If you’re a rhubarb fan, be prepared to fall for this Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble at 101 Cookbooks. The classic combination of strawberries and rhubarb mingle under a buttery pine nut and oat crumble. Need I say more?
The versatile Rhubarb Mango Relish at Real Simple is full of zesty flavor thanks also to fresh ginger and lime. I have a feeling the kids will love the sweet flavors, but even if they don’t, it’s a great way for the grown ups to liven up plain chicken, pork, or even fish. A perfect way to get adventurous, while still having something that even picky eaters can share.
Summer and salad go hand in hand, but sometimes I get in a salad rut. This Rhubarb Salad with Goat Cheese at Martha Stewart may be one of the only recipes on this list that isn’t particularly kid friendly, but it is just what I need to get excited about summery greens. And, of course, the kids can pick around the rhubarb if they must.
If you’re not a baker, get your rhubarb fix with the recipe for Sausage with Chard and Rhubarb at The New York Times. A little Swiss chard and rhubarb pair beautifully with savory sausage, and I love that Melissa Clark always keeps her recipes flexible and easy, allowing for a bit of addition or subtraction, depending on what you like.
Don’t feel like cooking? Kick back and relax with one of these gorgeous Rhubarb Raspberry Margaritas at Floating Kitchen. A simple syrup made with raspberries and rhubarb is mixed with fresh citrus juices and tequila for a drink that is as refreshingly delicious as it is gorgeous. And, though this is really not kid-friendly, the syrup mixed with a little soda water certainly is. Yum.