Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable that grows abundantly in the spring. A single rhubarb plant can produce plenty of rhubarb, maybe even more than you know what to do with! But what is rhubarb? Are there rhubarb benefits? What does rhubarb taste like? What can you do with it?
So what Is Rhubarb?
Oddly enough, rhubarb is most often used as a fruit rather than a vegetable. It may be for this reason that in the United States it was legally declared a fruit in 1947. However, scientifically it qualifies as a vegetable. You may hear it referred to as either a fruit or a vegetable because of this.
The rhubarb plant thrives after a cold, bitter winter. It grows into a large, sprawling plant that can be harvested before summer. It requires a cooler climate to flourish and can be found at higher elevations and more northern areas of the world.
The stalks are most easily described as red in color, but they can range from pale green to bright magenta. They look like celery in appearance. When the stalks are diced, the inside is white. The leaves are large, green, triangles that grow from the top of the stalk. Although we eat the stalk, the leaves must not be consumed. They are poisonous to humans and animals alike and should be disposed of appropriately. You would not die from having a small amount of leaf, but would likely experience an unpleasant bout of nausea and vomiting.
As rhubarb is a vegetable, it has a very favourable nutrition profile. It is low in calories and fat. Due to its composition, it is quite high in fiber. We need fiber to support our digestion. Eating enough fiber also helps lower cholesterol and is good for your heart.
A serving of rhubarb can also contain a significant amount of vitamin K, up to one-quarter of your recommended daily intake. Consuming enough vitamin K also helps your heart and assists in blood clotting. An adequate amount of vitamin K also helps build strong, healthy bones.
You can even get up to a tenth of your recommended calcium intake from rhubarb. Calcium is a key component to maintaining bone density, tooth strength, and blood health.
Rhubarb is high in antioxidants. Antioxidants which are also found in food such as red wine, green tea, and avocados are great for your health. They can contribute to clear healthy skin. They also help control free radicals which have been linked to the development of chronic disease.
The substance that gives rhubarb its incredible hue is a flavonoid known as anthocyanin. Some studies have shown that this nutrient assists with easing inflammation.
What Does Rhubarb Taste Like?
Although most rhubarb recipes involve cooking the rhubarb, it can be eaten raw. If you have never tried it, a small nibble can help you appreciate this vegetable that much more. Take a piece of stalk and taste it. The rhubarb texture is quite firm and provides a satisfying crunch. What is more obvious is the juicy, sour flavor. It is possibly the most sour vegetable available! For this reason, some people who eat raw rhubarb dip it in sugar or honey to provide some contrast to the sour profile.
Another way that rhubarb can be eaten raw is in a smoothie. Remember that it has health benefits and can add some much needed fibre to your drink. If it is difficult for your blender to handle, a quick steaming beforehand will help it break down in the blender. It is a great additive to a smoothie that is excessively sweet.
If the sour taste of rhubarb appeals to you, there are many ways to embrace it. Rhubarb can be pickled just like other vegetables. It can also be prepared into a chutney. Garnishes of rhubarb can add a satisfactory bite to salads, tacos, and other refreshing dishes.
The most popular rhubarb recipes, however, involve adding sugar and softening the rhubarb through some sort of cooking process. When it is cooked, the rhubarb texture is smooth and satisfactory, and depending on how small the pieces are the stringiness can maintain some variety in the mouthfeel. Rhubarb does maintain a sour taste after being cooked, and the sugar works to counteract this. On its own, it provides a wonderful sweet and sour sensation in your mouth. One way to reduce the amount of added sugar is to supplement your rhubarb recipe with another fruit such as strawberries.
Uses of Rhubarb
A simple use for rhubarb is in strawberry rhubarb jam or strawberry rhubarb pie. On its own, the rhubarb can be quite overpowering even with added sugar. Adding nice, sweet strawberries provides additional natural flavors for your tastebuds to experience.
Rhubarb can also be made into rhubarb crisp. This involves making a base of rhubarb and a sweet, sticky syrup that thickens with cooking. Then a crumbly rolled oat and brown sugar topping is added to the dish. It is cooked in the oven for a length of time. The sweetness of the topping is a great contrast to the tart layer below. To make it even more exciting, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to warm rhubarb crisp and enjoy how the melting cream compliments what you are tasting.
Rhubarb is a popular fruit that appeals to those who enjoy sour foods. When deciding what does rhubarb taste like, remember that even with sugar you will still need to embrace the tart flavor. You can experience rhubarb benefits if you consume this food regularly, just consider all the ways it can be used!