You might have seen rhubarb in grocery stores or heard about rhubarb jam and wondered what rhubarb tastes like? To try your hands on any recipe that includes rhubarb as the star ingredient, you need to know whether you’ll like its taste or not. So, let’s stop your quest here! Read this entire article to know everything about rhubarb, its wide varieties, and its uses.
Rhubarb is a famous sour-tasting vegetable found in many baked dishes in the United States. It is often combined with sugar to balance its sour-bitter taste, as most people find its taste unpleasant when eaten raw.
Rhubarb is not only known for its culinary uses, but it is a highly considered vegetable in the medicinal world. Just like many other healthy foods, it boasts many health benefits. All in all, rhubarb can be used in a variety of recipes, which you will find out more about in the article below.
So, to find a place for rhubarb in your kitchen, let’s get down to understanding what it tastes like, what its edible parts are, and its several varieties without any further delay.
What Is Rhubarb?
Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable that is native to Asia. This vegetable has ruby or green stems with large leaves that can grow up to 2 feet in height. However, rhubarb is most often cooked as fruit in the United States, as legally directed by the New York court in 1947.
Rhubarb grows best in cooler climates. It is a spring vegetable or fruit whose season begins in April and continues through July. It can even be eaten as early as January if the plants are covered or grown in dark sheds.
This fruit was first mentioned back in 2700 BC in ancient China, where it was cultivated for its laxative medical qualities. Since then, the plant made its way to Europe in the 1400s. However, rhubarb soared in popularity until it eventually made its way into the US in the early 1700s.
Today, Rhubarb Triangle, found in West Yorkshire, England, is known as the most renowned location for growing this plant.
What Does Rhubarb Taste Like?
If it’s the first time that you have come across rhubarb, then it’s good to know for starters that rhubarb is essentially a sour-tasting vegetable with a tart flavor when consumed raw. But it also comes in a sweeter taste, depending on the variety.
Due to its acidic flavor profile, it is also described as having a citrusy flavor. With such a unique flavor, rhubarb pairs well with a vast assortment of tastes, especially sweet, to balance the tartness in sweet desserts or vice-versa.
You can balance the sourness of rhubarb not just with sugar or honey but also with other sweet fruits and sauces. Primarily, only the stalks of rhubarb are consumed as the leaves are poisonous due to the high concentration of oxalic acid.
This chemical can cause digestive issues, lead to the formation of kidney stones, and even kidney failure. The stalks of rhubarb have a crisp and fibrous texture that is quite similar to celery. Once cooked, the rhubarb stalk softens and becomes less fibrous.
Types Of Rhubarb And Their Taste
If you’re looking to cook with rhubarb, you would be happy to know that there are different varieties of rhubarb available in the market, and each differs in terms of taste, color, and size like the ones listed below.
- Timperley Early
- German Wine
- Holsteiner Blut
- Frambozen Rood
- Crimson Cherry
- Riverside Giant
- Grandad’s Favorite
- Glaskins Perpetual
- Chinese Rhubarb
- Ace of Hearts
- Giant Rhubarb
With so many options of rhubarb available in the market, let’s find out what they taste like and their uses.
Ranking number one on the list, victoria rhubarb is one of its kind, with a lightly tart taste and large, fat stems with bright red skin. As the name suggests, it was introduced in 1837 in honor of Queen Victoria. This variety of rhubarb has long been used as an ingredient in dessert recipes.
It is hardy in nature, and the leaves alone can be up to 4 feet in length. The large and juicy stalks of victoria rhubarb are tailor-made for pies, jams, and sauces. Rhubarb charlottes, rhubarb fools (or parfait), rhubarb compotes, rhubarb tarts, and even rhubarb wine have all been famous during Queen Victoria’s reign.
2. Timperley Early
With a sweet-tart taste, Timperley’s early rhubarb makes for a great ingredient to be used in green salads. It’s hardy in nature and tends to mature early on in the season. If forced, it can be harvested as soon as February.
The stalks of this rhubarb variety are pink in color with a red base. They turn green and freckled near the green leaves. Owing to its sweet flavor and juicy stems, this rhubarb makes for a great addition to desserts and salads.
3. German Wine
German wine is considered to be the sweetest available type of rhubarb. It has thick and juicy stalks with pink speckles on its leaves. This rhubarb variety makes an excellent choice for making wine, pies, jams, salads, baking, and canning products.
In terms of flavor, german wine rhubarb comes closest to victoria rhubarb but is slightly more intense in color.
As the name suggests, this variety has been cultivated in Germany since the mid-19th century and makes for the key ingredient of German wine. This variety is best grown in full sun and tolerates a wide variety of soils.
4. Holsteiner Blut
Holsteiner Blut, also known as Holstein Blood, is a type of rhubarb that has a fruity, acidic taste. The stalks are pure red as blood, and they grow as high as 4 feet and spread as wide as 5 feet. Holsteiner Blut is native to the UK.
This variety of rhubarb is well suited for baking, especially for the much-famed strawberry rhubarb pie.
5. Frambozen Rood
Having a tart and sweet freshness, the frambozen rood rhubarb variety makes for a great ingredient for drinks. The nectar is pressed from its juicy stalks that shine like strawberry colors.
Frambozen roods can be harvested in both spring and fall and offer a steady supply of nectar. The plant grows up to 5 feet tall.
Another tart variety of rhubarb, the kangarhu produces bright crimson stalks in its signature red color, and the stems retain their color even after being cooked.
It’s a versatile rhubarb variety that can be used in baked goods, pureed, or made into compotes. You can also add them sliced into green salads. This variety is excellent for midwest or southern gardeners as it grows well in zones 4-8.
7. Crimson Cherry
Crimson cherry is a full flavor variety of rhubarb, having sweet taste notes. It has thick ruby-red stalks and is hardy and low-maintenance. Crimson cherry is a great choice for those living in the Pacific Northwest as this type of rhubarb enjoys cool temperatures.
The deep red stalks are tender in nature and rich in flavor, which makes them a great addition to pies and sauces. This variety performs best in colder regions like Alaska.
8. Riverside Giant
Riverside Giant is a perfect fit for tart pies, jams, and sauces. It is one of the cold-hardiest varieties available that can withstand temperatures as low as -40°F. Being a late bloomer, this variety makes for a good harvest from April to June.
Unlike the other varieties of rhubarb, Riverside Giant is green rather than pink or red.
9. Grandad’s Favorite
This variety of rhubarb has a sharp and fresh flavor which makes it ideal for stewing and baking. In appearance, the grandad’s favorite rhubarb is an upright perennial variety with large, glossy, wrinkled, dark green leaves and long, bright red, edible stems.
It gets ready for harvest from early spring to early summer and is a good plant for beginning gardeners. In comparison to the others, it also has lower toxicity than other cultivars.
10. Glaskins Perpetual
Glaskins perpetual is another tart variety of rhubarb, however, it’s not bitter due to low oxalic acid content. With those qualities, it’s safe to say that this variety makes for a good choice for those who are trying rhubarb for the first time.
It makes for a great addition to jams, pies, and wine. A unique quality of this variety of rhubarb is that it is grown from seeds, and an already grown plant can easily be transplanted.
Sunrise Rhubarb stands out in the entire list of rhubarb varieties because its pink stalks are thicker than the average rhubarb stalk. It is profoundly sour in taste with hints of sweetness.
Due to its sturdiness, it can be frozen for late use. That way, you can have fresh stalks of rhubarb in the middle of the winter. It works well for pies, jellies, canning, and freezing.
12. MacDonald’s Canadian Red
It is a widely available variety of rhubarb, which is sweet and has stalks that are thick, large, sturdy, and bright red. Again, this variety is suitable for freezing as they are prized for being highly productive and wilt resistant.
13. Ace of hearts
As the name suggests, the ace of hearts derives its name from its heart-shaped leaves. This variety was uniquely cultivated for its looks, hence the stalks are not edible.
What Are The Uses Of Rhubarb
Now that you know the different varieties of rhubarb and what they taste like, let’s learn more about how you can use this fruit. Rhubarb is a versatile ingredient that can be pureed, sauteed, stewed, roasted, or baked. It is essentially used with sweet flavors due to its tart taste.
You can use rhubarb to make jams, pie, compotes, popsicles, ice creams, smoothies, muffins, savory sauces, stews, and soups.
Apart from these, rhubarb is extensively used in traditional Chinese medicine. It is used to treat digestive issues such as constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, stomach pain, and gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding. It is also applied to the skin to treat cold sores.
What Should You Be Mindful Of When Buying Rhubarb?
Purchase of rhubarb should essentially be dictated by the taste you are looking for. If your dish calls for a tart flavor, then you should buy rhubarb with green stalks. However, if you are looking for something sweeter and milder, then opt for red rhubarb stalks.
Apart from the taste, look for stalks that are fresh, firm, and tender.
How Should We Store Rhubarb?
Rhubarb is a hardy vegetable that can be purchased, refrigerated, and stored for a couple of days, wrapped in a damp cloth. It’s also easy to freeze rhubarb for later use. To do this, you can wash the stalks, cut them into chunks, and pack them in freezer bags. When you need the rhubarb, you can simply thaw it and use it in whichever way you need.
Nutritional Content Of Rhubarb
While rhubarb is a vegetable known for its reddish stalks and sour taste, it is not especially rich in essential nutrients and has a low-calorie content. However, it is a very good source of vitamin K1 and C.
|Nutrients||Amount per100-gram serving of cooked rhubarb with added sugar|
|Vitamin K1||26% of the DV|
|Calcium||15% of the DV|
|Vitamin C||6% of the DV|
|Potassium||3% of the DV|
|Folate||1% of the DV|
Rhubarb stalks are one of the few plants that grow in nearly every growing zone. While it is technically a vegetable, it is referred to as a fruit in many places. All varieties of rhubarb contain oxalic acid in the leaves, which makes them toxic to use. Hence, only the stalks of rhubarb come in culinary use.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is rhubarb a vegetable or fruit?
Rhubarb is essentially a vegetable. However, it is most often cooked as fruit in the United States, as legally directed by the New York court in 1947.
Is eating rhubarb good for you?
Rhubarb is rich in antioxidants, Vitamin K, and C, which help protect you from many health-related issues such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Can you eat rhubarb raw?
Although rhubarb can be eaten raw, it tends to be too tart in this form. It tastes best when cooked with sugar.
Is rhubarb a Superfood?
Due to its impressive nutritional profile, rhubarb is being called by some in the food industry “the next fruit superfood.”