Rhubarb is a popular vegetable in a vegan’s kitchen. It is a hardy perennial plant with either purple-red or greenish-red color.
While the plant’s stalk is the sweet and edible part, its leaf and root can poison humans and animals. Rhubarb is characterized by broad leaves with thick, edible fleshy stalks. It is often confused with a magenta celery plant. Even though rhubarb is a vegetable, it is commonly used in delicacies as fruit.
What does rhubarb taste like? Generally, rhubarb has a clean, strong, sour, and healthy tart taste. The taste is a cross between green apple and celery but with a more tangy taste. Maincrop rhubarb has a more pronounced flavor and texture when compared to forced rhubarb.
Rhubarb contains 95% of water. It has a very low sugar content unlike carrot, beetroot, and pea. To enhance the taste of rhubarb and bypass the tart taste, it is added to foods that contain a lot of sugar.
Rhubarb is a very easy-to-cook vegetable and grows bountifully in backyard gardens. There are two types of rhubarb vegetables; forced rhubarb and maincrop rhubarb. The size of the rhubarb stalk is a better indicator of how tasty it will be. Larger and mature stalks have a better taste.
Nutritional Benefits of Rhubarb
In Asia, Rhubarb is popularly known for its medicinal advantage. It is a great source of vitamin K1, calcium, vitamin C, potassium, and carbohydrate. 100 gram serving of rhubarb provides 26 to 37% of the required daily intake of vitamin K1.
It helps the body produce a type of protein known as prothrombin which is useful in blood clotting and bone metabolism. It also plays an important role in regulating the calcium in the blood.
Like other fruits and vegetables, rhubarb is fiber-rich. It contains a similar amount of fiber as apple, celery, and orange. The fiber helps produce healthy gut bacteria, keeps the stomach filled for a very long time, fast tracks metabolism in the body, and helps the body prevent the absorption of unhealthy calories and fat.
Carbohydrate is one of the macronutrients the body requires daily to function effectively. 90 gram serving of rhubarb with added sugar is sufficient to provide 31.2 grams of carbohydrates. It is used in fuelling the brain, kidney, and central nervous system. It is also useful in the food digestion process and keeping blood cholesterol levels in check.
Also, rhubarb is an antioxidant-rich vegetable. It contains a substantial amount of polyphenol and condensed tannins. These nutrients help cut down unhealthy body weight. They also reduce the risk of diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, and cardiovascular diseases.
Extracts from rhubarb stalk are great pharmaceutical ingredients. It contains anthocyanins used in the production of anti-diabetic, anti-microbial, anti-cancer, and anti-obesity drugs.
Culinary Uses of Rhubarb
To use rhubarb in cuisines, it must be cooked first before incorporating it into dishes. From breakfast to dinner, there are various ways to make use of the savory taste of rhubarb. The popular way of using rhubarb is to grind it to make a sauce.
A perfect spring and early summer dish is a muffin prepared with a tart rhubarb. To prepare, chop carefully cooked rhubarb into small pieces, and pour into a bowl containing a mixture of flour, salt, baking soda, buttermilk, vanilla, sugar, and oil. You can then pour it into greased muffin tins and allow it to bake for about 20-25 minutes.
The vegetable can be used with apples to enhance the taste of bread. Shred rhubarb into chewable sizes and fold it in a greased loaf pan filled with a combination of flour, egg, apple sauce, vanilla, and sugar. You can then top it with cinnamon or sugar. Place the loaf pan in an oven and allow it to bake till it becomes brown. Serve this dessert with a bowl of ice cream or a cup of fruit juice.
Rhubarb can also be eaten with sautéed pork chops and chutneys. Salsa made with the vegetable can be used to grill fishes, meat and even roast potatoes. Make sure the salsa is made a night before you want to use it.
Where is Rhubarb Grown, How Do You Procure It?
The perennial plant has a distinct and fascinating history. Its origin can be traced back to 2700BC where it was cultivated for its medicinal properties in ancient China. Just like tea, rhubarb became an important factor in the relationship between China and Europe after it found its way into Europe in the 1400s. The plant started gaining popularity in the United States in the early 1700s.
It can grow in different types of soil provided they are well-drained. The plant is abundant from mid-spring through early summer. The germination of rhubarb requires a cold temperature. It is found in mountainous and temperate regions of Northeastern Asia. Rhubarb can be grown in backyard gardens or purchased at the grocery store and supermarkets.
While purchasing it, look out for the stalk. Make sure it is fresh, crisp, and has clean skin. Avoid stale stalks with split ends. To prepare it, trim away the leaves of the vegetable and use a vegetable peeler to remove any blemish. Chop the stalk into small pieces and cook it to prepare it for usage. You can freeze it raw, blanched, or cooked to preserve it.
Can Eating Raw Rhubarb Kill You?
Raw rhubarb stalks are perfectly safe to eat. Although, it is advisable to cook it with sweeteners like sugar or honey to remove its tart taste. The plant’s leaves should not be consumed raw or cooked as it contains oxalate that can cause diseases and lead to death eventually.
Facts You Didn’t Know About Rhubarb
- The word rhubarb is derived from the Latin word rhabarbarum which means roots of the barbarians.
- In 1947, the New York court ruled rhubarb officially as a fruit.
- June 9th is celebrated as National strawberry pie day and January 23rd is celebrated as National Rhubarb pie day.