By Mussy Raitman, Lubicom Staff
Spring has sprung (or should have by now…)
I’m still not sure why the temperature is consistently in the low 50s, skies are grey, and I feel surprised when the sun actually shines.
… But today is May 16th, and all I can hope is that the weather catches up to my calendar.
Mind you, rhubarb galettes have started to reappear on my Pinterest feed and personally I take the vibrant pink color as a sign that warmer weather is coming real soon.
I am 100% ready to say goodbye to soups and stews (even the spring infused versions) and get outdoors, eat in the park, but most importantly, buy gorgeous colored spring fruit and veggies.
Anyone with me?
For me, nothing screams spring like rhubarb.
For all you bakers and mixologists, it’s your favorite season, time to rejoice.
The first time I ever cooked with rhubarb I was surprised by its intensity. It’s jam-packed with a juicy tart flavor but can also be easily adapted to sweet recipes. The sour taste in mixed drinks is by far my favorite use. Spring-infused cocktails are everything.
Here’s everything you need to know about buying, storing, and cooking with rhubarb.
- Stalks- It’s important to remember when shopping for rhubarb to pick the stems that feel firm and have no blemishes. It’s kind of like celery shopping; you avoid the ones that look soft and floppy and opt for the sturdy, fresh ones. I just learned that it is very likely that the leaves of a rhubarb plant contain oxalic acid, which is poisonous. If rhubarb stalks have any cuts or nicks along the stem, they can work their way into the stalk.
- Color– Although on social media it looks like all rhubarb stalks are that iconic pink, there is actually a full range of colors from light green to dark reds. Yes, I know if you’re already buying rhubarb you want it to look perfect in pictures, but the color has zero effect on the taste. The perfect rhubarb color is thanks to anthocyanidins, a completely flavorless natural pigmentation. If you end up with some green stalks in your fridge, it doesn’t mean that it is any less ripe or tasteless; you just might not get the perfect ‘gram.
- Root– Unlike a lot of other vegetables, buying rhubarb with the roots attached is actually better. The longer it is connected to the roots, the longer you will find it lasts. It also indicates that the plant was fully matured when it was harvested because when fully matured, rhubarb with the roots can be pulled from the ground with just a gentle tug.
- Storing– Fresh rhubarb is extremely perishable, and it’s essential that you store it correctly. If stored correctly, rhubarb can last at least a week.
The best way to store it is to wrap it in foil and place it in the refrigerator crisper drawer. It’s best to only wash the stalks right before use. This will ensure the color and flavor stays intact.
If you see that you will have leftover rhubarb, cut the stalks into 1-inch chunks and seal in an airtight bag in the freezer. That way if you’re ever craving a rhubarb dish in the winter, you’ll be stocked.
- Cutting– The best way to cut rhubarb for cooking is in circles. The cutting process should only happen right before you intend to use it, so it doesn’t dry out and lose not only the flavor but also the vitamins and minerals.
Looking for some rhubarb recipes to get started? Here are five of my favorites:
- Strawberry Rhubarb Apple Compote from the Dining In cookbook
- Berry Rhubarb Sorbet Intermezzo by Chaia Frishman
- Apple Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp with a Twist by Rivky Kleiman
- Ricotta Pancakes by Brynie Greisman
- Sweet ‘n Sour Raspberry Rhubarb Sauce by Gabe Garcia