What is rhubarb? Rhubarb is considered a fruit in many places, although it does originally stem from the perennial vegetable family. It’s seen most commonly in the spring and looks like celery with pink, green or magenta stalks.
The strange thing about rhubarb is that you don’t eat the leaves. Only the pinkish-green stalks are edible. Eating the leaves can lead to an upset stomach. However, once you get past removing the leaves, rhubarb makes an excellent addition to your food palette.
What Does Rhubarb Taste Like?
Rhubarb tastes somewhat tart. Although it resembles celery, it has a sour flavor. Its taste isn’t very appealing when tried alone, which is why it goes well with sugar if you want to add a complementary flavor that lessens the sourness.
Rhubarb flavor stands out as its own unique flavor. This is because it’s too sour to eat on its own, but makes a wonderful pair with sweeter fruit, or as a part of a sweet dish. If you have forced rhubarb, it has a gentler flavor, while maincrop rhubarb has a more obvious, sharp flavor.
While some people may be tempted to think that the color of rhubarb determines its flavor, the flavor is not determined by color. It’s a bit crunchy, because of its celery-like texture, with sour tasting juice in its stalks.
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Is Rhubarb a Fruit or Vegetable?
The debate of whether rhubarb is a fruit or vegetable is slightly confusing. It has been declared a fruit in New York and in the Department of Agriculture in the US. However, some people claim it is a vegetable and is only cooked with fruits in order to bring out a sweeter taste.
It’s safe to say that the only solid information we have is that while rhubarb has vegetable origins similar to other perennial vegetables, it is legally considered a fruit as well. One reason why it’s considered a fruit is also because it has an extremely sour taste, with a hint of sweetness, similar to fruits like lemons. We’ll leave the decision to you.
Can You Freeze Rhubarb?
In order to freeze rhubarb, you will have to cut the stalks up into smaller pieces. Consider cutting it into small one-inch length pieces and putting them in a tightly sealed bag or container. If properly frozen, rhubarb can stay fresh for almost a whole year.
How to Store Rhubarb
Once you have cut the stalks and you store them carefully, you can keep rhubarb for almost a week. All you have to do is place it in a plastic bag, such as a Ziploc to ensure no moisture leaves the stalks. Keep it in the refrigerator, in the crisper drawer.
Some people skip washing the stalks for when they’re ready to cook rhubarb, however, if you do choose to wash them, wait until the stalks are completely dry before putting them in the fridge. Another alternative for storing rhubarb is to wrap the stalks in a damp cloth before refrigerating so that the coolness of the fridge doesn’t dry up all their moisture.
Tips on Using Rhubarb
As we’ve mentioned before, it’s very important that you first remove the leaves before proceeding to cook with rhubarb. After you discard the leaves, wash the stalks thoroughly and remove any dried up ends as well. Don’t peel the skin, because you’ll be getting rid of the rich flavor and color it holds.
When you cook rhubarb, you’ll notice that it forms a viscous juice. The stalks will break into threadlike pieces and when cooked just the right amount, it will come together to form a jelly-like substance that you can make into rhubarb jam after sweetening.
Most people prefer consuming rhubarb with a sweet side, to complement the bitter taste. It makes a great combination for deserts and goes well with the intense sweetness of strawberries.
You can use rhubarb for a number of dishes, mostly sweet, but also for dishes such as sauce, salsas, jams, stews or you can even eat the stalks with a sweet dip.
Don’t be intimidated by this sour tasting fruit, or vegetable, whatever you’d like to call it. Its unique taste and crunchy texture make for a nice, refreshing addition to many food combinations.