Rhubarb: This Snappy Spring Vegetable is Not Just for Pies

A member of the buckwheat family, rhubarb often is referred to as the “pieplant” because people commonly combine it with fruit to make pies, crisps and jams. But that’s just one way to use this versatile vegetable.

Rhubarb is a perennial plant that grows from crowns or seeds and can flourish for about a decade. Given full sun, plenty of water and well-drained soil, the plant can thrive in otherwise neglected areas of cooler climates. Rhubarb produces leaves that are inedible (they contain oxalic acid, which can be toxic) but are beautiful in flower gardens. There are green and red varieties, but the color has no impact on flavor.

In the Kitchen

Tart rhubarb usually is combined with sugar and sweet fruits to bring out its flavor. When cooked, rhubarb quickly turns into a jam-like sauce, which makes a flavorful topping for yogurt or ice cream and can accompany meat or fish and warm porridge as a chutney. Diced fresh and frozen rhubarb can be added to pancake, muffin or cake batters. To bring out the flavor, combine rhubarb with ginger, vanilla, lemon, oranges, peaches or berries.

Hothouse rhubarb is available from December through March, and field-grown rhubarb is available March through October, peaking between April and June. Frozen diced rhubarb can be purchased year-round at grocery stores.

Before cutting into chunks and cooking rhubarb, wash stalks and trim the ends. Similar to celery, some rhubarb stalks also have fibrous skin that can be removed.

In the Clinic

Rhubarb is low in calories, sodium and fat. A ½-cup serving of raw diced rhubarb has 13 calories and 1 gram of fiber. It also provides 5 percent of the daily value for calcium, 8 percent of the daily value for vitamin C, 5 percent of the daily value for potassium and 22 percent of the daily value for vitamin K.

A ½-cup serving of frozen rhubarb has 15 calories and 1 gram of fiber. It provides 13 percent of the daily value for calcium, 5 percent of the daily value for vitamin C and 25 percent of the daily value for vitamin K.

In Quantity

When buying fresh rhubarb, look for crisp stalks with no blemishes or gashes. Remove all leaves, then tightly wrap and refrigerate stalks for up to one week. For longer storage, freeze, can or dry diced rhubarb.

Foodservice retailers sell frozen diced rhubarb in larger quantities, such as 30-pound bags of nearly 100 servings.


Cindy Gay, RDN, LD, serves as historian for the West Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, teaches in the lifelong learning program and conducts farmers market demonstrations. She is a Stone Soup blogger and author of cindyshealthymeals.blogspot.com.


Rhubarb-Mango Smoothie

Developed by Karman Meyer

Servings: 2
Serving size: 1 ¼ cups (280 grams)
Prep time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (240 milliliters) unsweetened soy milk
  • 1 cup frozen mango chunks
  • 1 cup frozen sliced rhubarb*
  • ⅓ cup fat-free vanilla skyr**
  • 1 date, pit removed, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chia seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger

Instructions

Add soy milk to a blender followed by mango, rhubarb, skyr, date, chia seeds and ginger. Blend until smooth. 

Notes

*If using fresh rhubarb, slice cleaned stalks into 1-inch pieces and lay flat on a small baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze until firm. Keep frozen rhubarb pieces in a freezer storage bag until ready to use.

**Vanilla Greek yogurt may be used in place of skyr.

Nutrition Per Serving:
CALORIES 177; TOTAL FAT 3g; SAT. FAT 0g; CHOL. 0mg; SODIUM 83mg; CARB. 31g; FIBER 4g; SUGARS 23g; PROTEIN 9g; POTASSIUM N/A; PHOSPHORUS N/A

Note: Nutrition information for potassium and phosphorus in skyr not available.


Karman Meyer, RD, LDN, is a Nashville-based nutrition and culinary consultant and freelance writer. She is a Stone Soup blogger and author at thenutritionadventure.com.

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Cindy Gay, RD, LD
Cindy Gay, RD, LD, serves as historian for the West Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, teaches in the lifelong learning program and conducts farmers market demonstrations. She blogs at Cindy's Health Meals and is enjoying planning meals for two instead of meals for 1,000. Connect with her on Twitter and Pinterest.
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Karman Meyer, RD, LDN
Karman is an RDN based in Nashville. Teaching people easy ways to implement healthy changes into their lifestyle is her passion. Karman blogs at The Nutrition Adventure and is an experienced recipe developer, nutrition writer and public speaker. When she’s not in the kitchen, she’s on her yoga mat, hiking in local parks or trying new restaurants around town. Follow Karman on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.