Although it can be consumed raw, it probably will not be enjoyable since it is quite sour and has a bitter taste in that state. It is no wonder a lot of people prefer to cook it with some sugar.
In other simpler words, the rhubarb plant has one of those tastes that we commonly refer to as an acquired taste.
What does rhubarb taste like? To be quite honest with you, rhubarb is one of those plants that are low in sugar content that is naturally occurring in plants. What this means is that it is quite sour, especially when taken raw. Thus, you may need to add some sweeteners as you use it.
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What is Rhubarb?
Looking at it for the first time, I am sure many have confused rhubarb for some version of reddish-purple or greenish-red celery. I know I have.
Rhubarb which originates from Asia is a perennial plant that has long been used for mainly medicinal purposes but can also be used for culinary purposes. You may be wondering what it looks like.
Well, rhubarb has broad leaves with a thick, fleshy pink stalk. Botanically speaking, rhubarb is treated as a vegetable however, the stalks of the plant are often taken and treated as fruits in their preparation.
Further, there are essentially two main types of rhubarb. These are forced rhubarb and maincrop rhubarb. Forced rhubarb is usually characterized by having rather long and pinkish stalks and leaves that are yellow or lime green in color.
They are also considered to have the most delicate flavor. Maincrop rhubarb on the other hand have much thicker stalks that are bright red with leaves that are brighter green in color.
However, their stalks can also be pink, pinkish green, or green. In terms of flavor and taste, maincrop rhubarb is said to have a more pronounced flavor to it.
How To Harvest Rhubarb
Let us just say that growing rhubarb is for those with loads of patience. This is because, to begin with, rhubarb takes up to one whole year to grow.
Sometimes they may even take two to three years to mature. The wait can be totally worthwhile though once you have your rhubarb in front of you and you are enjoying it in a meal.
A lot of farmers state that there are many ways to plant: from seed, crown, bare root, or division. In addition, if you do not have enough space in your kitchen garden, you can always opt to grow your rhubarb in containers or sacks.
When it comes to knowing when it is ideal to pick the ready and ripe rhubarb all you really need to keep in mind is that the stalks of the rhubarb plant need to be at least 12 inches in length.
It is also advisable to wait until there are about 10 stalks on the plant since we want some to remain when we have completed the harvesting.
As for tools to use, the most ideal and suitable tool to use would be your hands. Yes, you can use a gardening knife but that would then risk accidentally cutting some young stalks that you may not have intended to cut.
Using your hands, all you need to do is to properly grip the particular stalk that you want to harvest preferably at the bottom, and give it a slight twist and a slight tag or pull.
Benefits of Rhubarb
Without a doubt eating rhubarb can have an added advantage to your diet in terms of it being much healthier. This is because rhubarb as a plant contains loads of vitamins and minerals that are important in some very key bodily functions.
These vitamins and minerals include lutein, vitamin C, and K, the B-complex, calcium, potassium, and so many more.
Below is a list of some of the health benefits that one can expect from eating rhubarb or incorporating it into their diet or meals;
- It acts as a support to your body’s immune system. This is done due to the presence of vitamin C in the rhubarb which is a great antioxidant that greatly boosts the activity of the white blood cells in the body.
- It improves the digestive health of the person consuming the rhubarb. It is a no-brainer that the stalks of the rhubarb plant are rich in fiber thus when consumed they help in regulating bowel movements and go a long way in preventing constipation.
- Help in keeping your bones strong. Due to the presence of vitamin k in rhubarb, alongside calcium and magnesium, rhubarb is able to promote proper bone development and can help in preventing things such as osteoporosis.
- Great for a person that is on a weight loss journey. This is simply because rhubarb as a plant is very low in calories which is amazing for anyone who is trying to lose weight.
- Rhubarb also plays a great role in stabilizing blood sugar levels. This is due to the high fiber content in the rhubarb stalks that also plays a role in controlling the passive absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.
How To Use Rhubarb
It is important to note that we only make use of the pink stalk of the rhubarb plant, the leaves are to be discarded.
This is because the triangular leaves of the rhubarb plant contain high levels of a chemical poison known as oxalic acid.
When consumed causes symptoms such as abdominal pain, seizures, shock, pain in the mouth, pain in the throat, tremors, throwing up, and burns and blisters where the acid may have made contact with skin, lips, tongue, or gums.
I am sure that none of us would want to experience any of the above and as such, it would probably be best to just avoid the leaves of the rhubarb plant.
Generally speaking, rhubarb can be prepared roasted, sauteed, stewed, or pureed with the most common way of preparing it being stewing it.
In this article, we will focus on the stewing method of preparation. All you need for this method is ten stalks of properly cleaned and diced rhubarb, three cups serving of white sugar, a few cups of water, and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon to taste. The method is as follows;
- Gently and carefully place the diced pieces of rhubarb into a saucepan or cooking pot and then proceed to fill the pot with just enough water such that the rhubarb is almost covered but not quite.
- Turn on the cooking stove and bring the water in the cooking pot or saucepan to a boil then turn down the heat and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Remember to stir occasionally.
- Turn off the heat on the stove and then slowly add in the sugar that you had set aside as well as the dash of cinnamon and continue to stir in the mixture until you are sure that all the sugar has fully dissolved into the water and the rhubarb has begun to break down and fall apart.
- Once you are satisfied that all the above has happened, the stewed rhubarb is ready and it can be served either hot or cold. This all depends on the preference of the person consuming the rhubarb.
How To Store Rhubarb
As is the case with almost every other natural ingredient, once it has been harvested from the main plant or the ground, rhubarb tends to wilt and soften quite quickly.
This is especially the case when it is left at room temperature. Because of this characteristic, you may want to store the rhubarb just as soon as you can in readiness for when you will be ready to use it.
Let us not forget to mention that you can definitely go the route of refrigerating or freezing your rhubarb stalks. And, while it is possible to simply place the rhubarb stalks in a resealable freezer bag or a Ziploc bag and throw them in the refrigerator for a few days, there is a much better option of freezing the rhubarb stalks.
It entails loosely wrapping the stalks in aluminum foil before putting them in the refrigerator. This method allows one to potentially extend the rhubarb’s fresh qualities for up to two weeks or even longer.
If you want to store the stalks for longer, you can go ahead and freeze them. The method is quite simple:
- You want to begin by ensuring that you remove any leaves off of the stalk of the rhubarb seeing as they are poisonous.
- Next is to rinse and thoroughly clean off each stalk individually.
- After cleaning you will want to chop off just an inch off both ends of the stalks.
- Once the step above is done you can now dice the stalks into chunks or pieces.
- Place the pieces into a Ziploc freezer bag and try as much as possible to remove all the air from the bag as you seal it.
- Seal the bag and place it in the freezer