You Are What You Eat: Rhubarb

Listen to the full episode of my Newstalk show here and learn all about rhubarb! And if you feel inspired, why not try my Rhubarb & Strawberry Galette or Rhubarb & Ginger Gin Sour Cocktail. Rhubarb is a vegetable not a fruit although we treat it like a fruit in how we cook it . 

Rhubarb, a perennial vegetable known for its tart and tangy taste and is classified as a leafy stalk vegetable..

It is classified as a vegetable rather than a fruit because it does not have seeds and is not part of the reproductive process of the plant.It gets this classification due to how it grows. This is because the edible part of the rhubarb plant is the stalk or stem, which is long, slender, and has a thick layer of fibrous tissue. This fibrous tissue gives the rhubarb its characteristic texture and is what makes it suitable for use in dishes like pies and crumbles. Other examples of leafy stalk vegetables include celery and asparagus.

The stalk is bright and pink in colour with big dark green leaves siting on top. 

It grows in spring and summer and grows form a crown. 

I inherited my rhubarb plant when we moved to our new house and it gives me heart failure every year. It looks like in winter it is dead, gone, done for. It is almost like it rots aways, never to be seen again and then each spring up it pops again. 

I have childhood memories of cousins eating raw rhubarb dipped in sugar…. Does anyone else remember that? 

Rhubarb is traced back to the 1800’s in Ireland, coming via Giant rhubarb (Gunnera tinctoria) is a large perennial plant which is native to Chile and Argentina in South America. It was first introduced to Ireland in the 1800s as an ornamental garden plant because of its size and exotic appearance.

When harvesting rhubarb, take a hold of the stalk low down and pull it off, rather than cutting. Don’t harvest after July or you will reduce the yield for the following spring.

Newstalk Rhubarb

Listen to my weekly food chat with Kieran Cuddihy on Newstalk.

What are the Nutritional Benefits of Rhubarb?

Nutrient Dense Food 

Like traditional rhubarb, forced rhubarb is low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals. One cup of cooked forced rhubarb contains about 26 calories and is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, and potassium. Additionally, forced rhubarb is rich in antioxidants, which can help protect your body from cell damage and reduce your risk of chronic diseases.

A Glut of Rhubarb : Freeze it 

Step 1: Harvesting Rhubarb

The first step in freezing rhubarb is to harvest it at the right time. Rhubarb is typically ready for harvest in late spring or early summer, when the stalks are firm and the leaves are still green. To harvest rhubarb, grasp the stalk near the base and pull it gently to one side, twisting slightly as you go. The stalk should snap off cleanly.

It’s important to note that rhubarb leaves are not edible and can be toxic, so be sure to discard them. Only the stalks should be used for cooking and freezing.

Step 2: Cleaning and Preparing Rhubarb

Once you have harvested your rhubarb, it’s time to clean and prepare it for freezing. Rinse the stalks under cold running water to remove any dirt or debris. Trim off the ends and discard them, then cut the stalks into pieces of the desired length. Some people prefer to cut rhubarb into small pieces for ease of use, while others prefer to freeze it in larger pieces and cut it later.

Step 3: Blanching Rhubarb

Blanching is an important step in freezing rhubarb, as it helps to preserve the flavor and texture of the vegetable. To blanch rhubarb, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the rhubarb to the boiling water and let it cook for 1-2 minutes. This will help to kill any bacteria and enzymes that could cause the rhubarb to spoil.

After blanching, immediately remove the rhubarb from the boiling water and plunge it into a bowl of ice water. This will stop the cooking process and help to preserve the bright color of the rhubarb.

Step 4: Drying Rhubarb

Once the rhubarb has been blanched and cooled, it’s important to dry it thoroughly before freezing. Excess moisture can cause freezer burn and affect the texture of the rhubarb. Use a clean kitchen towel or paper towels to gently blot the rhubarb dry.

Step 5: Freezing Rhubarb

There are a few different methods you can use to freeze rhubarb. One option is to pack the dry rhubarb into freezer-safe plastic bags, removing as much air as possible before sealing. Another option is to freeze the rhubarb on a baking sheet before transferring it to freezer bags. To do this, spread the dry rhubarb out on a baking sheet in a single layer and freeze for several hours. Once frozen, transfer the rhubarb to freezer bags and seal.

Regardless of the method you choose, be sure to label the bags with the date and contents. Rhubarb can be stored in the freezer for up to 12 months.

Step 6: Using Frozen Rhubarb

Frozen rhubarb can be used in a variety of dishes, including pies, crisps, jams, and sauces. It can be used directly from the freezer, without the need to thaw first. Keep in mind that frozen rhubarb may release more liquid than fresh rhubarb during cooking, so you may need to adjust the amount of sugar or thickener used in your recipe.

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