Are rhubarbs a plant or a vegetable? Scientifically, rhubarb is classified in the plant category. However, many cooks use rhubarb in desserts and as a fruit. In 1947 a New York court made a bold move and re-classified the plant as a fruit stating that if it is being used as a fruit across the state – and the country – it should be labeled as one. This action resulted in lower taxes paid on the fruit.
Rhubarb grows around the world. A new trend allows for the harvesting of rhubarb in hothouses. Hothouse rhubarb has its own distinctive flavor and is sweeter and tenderer than traditionally grown plants.
Rhubarb plants are perennials that grow from squat rhizomes. The leaves are poisonous but the flavorful stalks are found in a wide variety of sweet and savory dishes.
Choosing the Best
Many cooks celebrate spring when the first rhubarb stalks arrive in the market. When purchasing fresh rhubarb it is important to look for firm stalks with no brown or black spots.
Rhubarb may be forced or grown naturally. Forced rhubarb will have a different color. This type will have a very intense pink or red hue. The leaves will be yellow because of a lack of sun exposure.
Fresh rhubarb, both forced and naturally harvested, have the potential to last for one to two weeks in the refrigerator. Most cooks choose to avoid keeping rhubarb in the fridge for extended periods as it may absorb flavors from other foods and become less firm. The best way to store rhubarb that will not be used in one to two days is to cook and freeze it until ready to use it in a dish.
Preparing and Cooking
To prepare rhubarb cut off the leaves and the ends of the stems. Keep in mind that the leaves are toxic and dispose of them carefully.
After the rhubarb is prepped, it can be sliced into smaller pieces and boiled in water and sugar to make a jam. Other fruit such as strawberries can be added along with pectin, cinnamon, and other spices.
Another popular dish is a rhubarb sauce. To make a sauce the fruit is prepped as above and boiled. Once soft, it is simmered for forty-five minutes. The stalks can be pierced with a fork when done. This sauce has the consistency of applesauce and a vibrant sweet and sour flavor.
One serving of rhubarb equals 3.5 ounces. Rhubarb is high in Vitamin C and K which are antioxidants that protect cells.
- Carbohydrates – 4.54 g
- Sugars – 1.1 g
- Dietary Fiber -1.8 g
- Fat – .2 g
- Protein – .9 g
- Water – 93 g
- Vitamin C – 13 % RDA
- Vitamin K – 28 % RDA