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Rhubarb

A vegetable that is used like a fruit in cooking, rhubarb has pink to red celerylike stalks and large green leaves. The only part of the plant that is edible is the stalk; the leaves are toxic and must be removed and discarded. The tart-flavoured stalks are always served sweetened and cooked.

Availability

  • Field-grown rhubarb is available April through July, while hothouse varieties are sold January through June.

Purchasing

  • Select bunches of rhubarb with crisp, straight well-colored stalks. Any attached leaves should look fresh, although they should never be eaten.
  • Avoid rhubarb with stalks that are turning green or have blemishes or cuts.

Storage

  • Refrigerate unwashed rhubarb in a plastic bag for 3 to 5 days.
  • Freeze fresh, cut-up rhubarb in freezer-weight plastic bags for up to 9 months.

Preparation/Cooking

  • Trim off and discard all leaves and the ends of the stalks.
  • Remove any brown spots or coarse strings with a vegetable peeler. Wash under cold running water.
  • Cut the stalks crosswise into 1- to 2-inch pieces. Because it breaks down easily during cooking, rhubarb is usually not cut into small pieces.
  • To eat rhubarb, it must first be stewed. Stewing is therefore the first step in most rhubarb recipes.

STEWING DIRECTIONS

  • CUT 1 lb of cleaned fresh rhubarb into 1-inch pieces and place in a medium saucepan. Add 2 Tbsp water and 1/3 cup sugar; stir gently.
  • COVER and cook on medium heat 5 minutes or until desired tenderness. Remove from heat. Cool slightly. Serve warm or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tips

  • Sprinkle stewed rhubarb with your favourite cereal.
  • Spoon stewed rhubarb on pound cake slices and top with thawed Cool Whip Topping.
  • Serve stewed rhubarb over ice cream or frozen yogourt.
  • Combine rhubarb with other foods and flavours that sweeten or complement its natural tartness, such as strawberries, apples, ginger, cinnamon, orange and maple.
  • Stir rhubarb pieces into muffin, quick bread and coffee cake batters.
  • Substitute rhubarb for half of the fruit in your favourite crisp and cobbler recipes.
  • Simmer sweetened rhubarb into a sauce and serve over ice cream and pancakes.
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