The thick, celery-like stalks of this plant can reach 2 feet long, and are eaten like a fruit though it is technically a vegetable. The leaves contain oxalic acid, which is toxic, and are not eaten. Hothouse rhubarb is pink to pale red with yellow-green leaves and field-grown rhubarb has cherry red stalks and green leaves. Some wild varieties have green stalks which never turn red. Because it is very TART, rhubarb is typically served with berries or sugar.
Season: May - July
How to select: Choose stalks that are bright, with fresh-looking blemish-free leaves. Avoid stalks that are soft, dull looking, scarred or have brown or black ends.
How to store: Highly perishable, rhubarb will keep for 3 days wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator. Rhubarb freezes very well when the stalks are wrapped in aluminum foil then sealed in a ziploc baggie.
How to prepare: Wash and remove leaves *just* before using. Because it is extremely tart, rhubarb is usually combined with a considerable amount of sugar in sauces, jams, and pies. In the US it is traditionally made with strawberries, and in the UK, ginger. Do NOT cook rhubarb in an aluminum pan. A chemical reaction will turn the rhubarb gray and it pick up a metallic flavor. Add a touch of lemon juice or vinegar to your recipe in order to keep the rich red color and prevent the component in rhubarb that will turn it blue when heated.
Matches well with: apples, berries, brandy, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, cream, fruit, ginger, oranges, pepper, plums, sour cream, strawberries, sugar