Rhubarb is one of my favourite ingredients to work with. It pairs so well with a myriad of fruits, it can hold its own against many spices and it even works in some savoury preparations. Given a little time and attention, rhubarb brings an incredible balance of sweet and tart to desserts, cakes and savoury dishes.
Although used predominantly in sweets, rhubarb is actually a vegetable. There are two types of rhubarb; ‘maincrop’ rhubarb arrives in the spring and has a deep red colour with bright green leaves, an intense flavour and robust texture. The rhubarb that we have been enjoying over the past few months is the more tender and delicately flavoured ‘forced’ rhubarb, with pale lime green leaves and a watermelon pink coloured stalk. This latter is grown in the ‘rhubarb triangle’, around Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford and works well paired with sweet strawberries, blueberries, grapefruit, vanilla and halibut. The more robust ‘maincrop’ rhubarb can be combined with stronger flavours such as ginger, cherries, orange, beetroot, chicken, lamb and pork.
How to Prepare Rhubarb
Rhubarb leaves should never been eaten as they contain a poison called oxalic acid. Forced rhubarb only needs to be washes and slices, however, ‘maincrop’ rhubarb often has tough, stringy ribs that can be stripped off with a small knife.
How to Cook Rhubarb
Poach for 8-10 minutes in water. Stew for 10 minutes with a splash of water and caster sugar, or roast in a preheated oven at 200*c for 15-20 minutes.
*Remember when cooking rhubarb that you can always add more sugar later on. Add the sugar gradually and taste, taste, taste!
How to Store Rhubarb
Uncooked rhubarb will wilt quickly, so should be used soon after purchase or frozen for later use. After cooking your rhubarb, it can be frozen (and will last for up to a year) or stored in the fridge for a week or so.
Here are a few recipes using rhubarb: