Rhubarb is a vegetable that is commonly used as a fruit. But did you know that some of its parts are poisonous?

Rhubarb, a perennial plant that produces crops for several years and also tastes great.

Its popularity is increasing year by year, as it is versatile, cheap, but also extremely simple to process.

Do you know that it is a healthier and cheaper version of the much-loved avocado?

How to cook it and what to watch out for?

What is rhubarb?

Curly rhubarb ( Rheum rhabarbarum) is a plant commonly known as rhubarb.
Its stems are classified as vegetables, although they are processed more like fruits; they have a juicy and sour taste and are very popular. You certainly know them, at least from our grandmothers’ recipes.

The stems or petioles are also the only edible part of the rhubarb plant.

Rhubarb stalks without leaves
source: whats4eats.com

Is rhubarb poisonous?

The leaves, which grow up to 60 cm long, are toxic. They contain a large amount of oxalic acid, i.e. nephrotoxin, which, among other things, negatively affects kidney function, so consumption can cause the formation of kidney stones.

Rhubarb leaves also cause symptoms of mild poisoning – vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath and fainting. 6-8 kg of consumed leaves is generally considered to be a toxic amount that can lead to death, and considerably less (0.5 kg) in animals.

Rhubarb and health

Rhubarb stalks are made up mainly of water, 93% of the total weight. They contain a negligible amount of carbohydrates and fats, but in contrast, they are rich in vitamins, especially vitamin K. Rhubarb provides up to 41% of the recommended daily dose of this vitamin. The latter is key to bone density, even to such an extent that it significantly reduces the risk of fractures and is a prevention of osteoporosis 1 .

Broccoli, spinach and cabbage are generally considered to be the vegetables richest in vitamin K, and avocado is the fruit. Compared to avocado, however, rhubarb is an even greater source of vitamin K.

Raw rhubarb
100 g 2
Raw avocado
100 g 3
Energy value 21 kcal 160 calories
Proteins 0.9 g 2 g
Fats 0.2 g 14.7 g
Carbohydrates 4.54 g 8.53 g
Fiber 1.8 g 6.7 g
Vitamin C 8 mg 10 mg
Beta carotene 61 μg 62 μg
Vitamin K 29.3 μg 21 μg
Manganese 0.196 mg 0.142 mg
Potassium 288 mg 485 mg
Calcium 86 mg 12 mg

Due to its low carbohydrate content, rhubarb is suitable for diabetics. In the future, the extract from the petioles could even become a complementary treatment for diabetes. It regulates the level of glucose and thus reduces the risk of hypoglycemic shock 4 .

Rhubarb stems also contain anthocyanins – pigments that give them their reddish color. Anthocyanins have been shown to have anti-cancer effects and could be used to make less toxic cancer drugs. According to recent studies, it can also kill cancer cells that are resistant to chemotherapy 5 . In particular, rhubarb shows very promising effects in the treatment of colon and stomach cancer. In addition, it was found that after heat treatment, the level of anti-cancer anthocyanins in rhubarb increases, compared to other crops, where it tends to decrease.

Rhubarb root

Rhubarb root is part of traditional Chinese medicine. Decoctions from the roots of plants that are at least 6 years old are used for medicinal effects. They are used to treat high cholesterol, stomach ulcers, inflammation of the intestines and liver and, most often, constipation. Because of its laxative effects, rhubarb root is often included in herbal oils to cleanse and detoxify the intestines.

The root (as well as the petioles, but in smaller quantities) contains the substance emodin. It has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antiviral effects, due to which it was even labeled as a potential drug against the SARS-CoV virus. In a laboratory environment, it significantly blocked the binding of the virus to human cells and even reduced its overall infectivity 6 .

Rhubarb root
source: hobbyfarms.com

How long does rhubarb cook?

Although rhubarb stalks can be eaten raw, due to their (sometimes extremely) sour taste, they are most often cooked with sugar.

  1. Cut the washed stems into small pieces (about 1 cm in size).
  2. Pour them into a pot, add sugar and water. Ratio: 7 cups rhubarb / 1 cup sugar / 3 tablespoons water.
  3. Cook over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Rhubarb cooked in this way can be consumed immediately.
Rhubarb cooked with sugar
source: thehomecookskitchen.com

Sweet recipes and rhubarb in the main role

  • Who does not know a wonderful rhubarb pie? Cottage cheese, with crumbs or custard or in the form of bubbly, there are several variants, but they all taste delicious. Get inspired by top-notch rhubarb pie recipes and try the one that catches your eye the most.

  • Rhubarb is a basic raw material for the production of some types of mead and fruit wines. Add boiled rhubarb (syrup) to homemade mixed cocktails, combine with gin and lemon, rum and mint or vodka and lime.

  • The rhubarb ice cream is also worth mentioning, because it is sensational. In summer, you will definitely appreciate it, both the well-known cream version and the rhubarb sorbet. You can make both easily and quickly in an ice cream maker. Don’t know which one to buy? View a large comparison test of ice cream makers and learn about the advantages of individual machines.

  • Refreshing, neither sweet nor sour – that’s rhubarb marmalade. You can spread it on bread, pancakes or add it to plain yogurt. It is also excellent as a filling for yeast buns, try the recipe for rhubarb jam and judge for yourself.

Savory rhubarb recipes

Rhubarb is most often a part of sweet dishes, for that reason its use in salty dishes is less known. However, add it to a spicy salsa or any version of chutney, as well as to a marinade for meat – and you will be pleasantly surprised!

How to store rhubarb?

Store cleaned and dried stems, either whole or chopped, in airtight containers in the refrigerator, where they will last up to 1 month without harm. You can then store frozen rhubarb for up to 1 year.

Before freezing, it is advisable to blanch rhubarb first, like most vegetables. Thanks to this, it will retain its rich color and juiciness. If you don’t know what blanching is, read this simple guide . Rhubarb is blanched without salt and only needs to be boiled and cooled for 30 seconds.

Varieties of rhubarb

Cherry Red – this variety is unusually sweet, it does not need to be sweetened with sugar, which is why it is popular with low-carb diets.

Canada Red is characterized by much wider stems compared to other species. It is also significantly juicier because it contains more water.

Crimson Red is especially popular in rainy areas, it thrives in a humid environment, so it has a much richer harvest.

Prince Albert, a variety named after the husband of Britain’s Queen Victoria. The stems turn deep pink during heat treatment.

Riverside Giant is one of the slowest growing varieties. Usually rhubarb is ready for harvest in the second year, Riverside Giant in the fourth. The stems do not have the classic red color, but green.

Victoria – is the most widespread and popular variety of rhubarb, which is why it is commonly available in stores.

Growing rhubarb

Rhubarb is one of the least demanding plants to grow. As a perennial, it bears fruit for ten years. It is frost-resistant, which is why it also grows, for example, in Alaska. It is planted in autumn and harvested in spring. However, it is not recommended to grow rhubarb from seed, as it takes several seasons for the plants to grow to a height suitable for harvesting. The best option is to buy seedlings that are several years old.

The season or when not to eat rhubarb?

Rhubarb stalks are harvested between April and May, June at the latest. After that, the plant goes into flower, the stems increase their oxalic acid content and can cause health problems similar to the inedible leaves.

Milan & Ondra

We are both fans of good food and enjoy cooking. On this website, we want to inspire you with traditional, but also less common recipes. We will be happy if you try our recipes and let us know how you liked them. Bon appetite! :)