Monday, April 30, 2012

Pretty in Pink - the Many Uses of Rhubarb

All throughout my childhood when we lived in East Germany, my parents harvested Rhubarb from our garden.  When my sister-in-law in Minnesota offered me a couple of Rhubarb plants on a summer trip, I accepted it gladly.  I thought of the few times, when I purchased a few stalks of Rhubarb at the store and paid a pretty penny. 

This spring my two Rhubarb plants are plentiful and I took already several times the pink stalks from each plant.  I learned that Rhubarb is an actual vegetable which has its original home in the Himalayas.  When Marco Polo explored China, he took some plants back to Europe.  From there they made their way to us.  The advantage of this easy to care for plant is that it can grow in all kinds of climates and produces for many years without much special care.

Rhubarb’s nutritional benefits:
Rhubarb provides a good source of vitamins and fiber.  Rhubarb tastes best cooked with a little sugar, since it is very tart like cranberries.  It contains a good amount of Vitamin A, C and E, as well as K. It is also rich in iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and several trace minerals.

Rhubarb’s medicinal benefits:
For this purpose mainly the roots of older plants are used.  Their benefits are mostly regarding the digestive system and to prevent constipation.

Rhubarb in desserts and baked goods:
There are so many recipes using Rhubarb, it actually got the name Pie plant.  But pies are not the only way to use them.

I like to share here some of my favorite recipes:
Rhubarb Crumble
Combine to make into large crumbles, place in the freezer while heating the oven:
1 cup flour
1/3 cup oats
3/4 cup sugar
6 TBSP melted butter or coconut oil
½ cup chopped nuts

2 pounds of Rhubarb, chopped
1/3 cup sugar
¼ cup flour
½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. orange zest
¼ tsp Salt

Place in an 8x8 inch ceramic baking dish.  Scatter crumble on top and bake in a preheated 375 degrees F oven until golden and bubbly, about 45 minutes.  Let cool for 15 min.  Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Rhubarb Tea
1 quart of water
1 cup Rhubarb, cut into pieces
2 pieces of Ginger (about 1 inch square each)
Bring to a boil in a saucepan and cook for about 20 minutes.  Add enough sugar or other sweetener to make a delicious drink.  Strain off the liquid and drink warm or let cool down.

Rhubarb Pudding Cake
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 TBSP coconut oil or butter, softened
1/2 cup milk
1 1/4 cup flour
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp salt

Mix together and pour into buttered baking dish 8x8 inches.

4 cups Rhubarb, cut into pieces
1 cup sugar
1 pint (2 cups) heavy cream

layer over cake mix
bake at 400 degrees F for 25 min. or until pudding mixture is set in the middle.  Let cool completely before serving.
Rhubarb Sauce
2 cups Rhubarb, cut into pieces
½ cup sugar
2 pieces of lemon rind, discard after cooking
3 cups water
Bring mixture to a boil and let simmer for 10-15 minutes until Rhubarb falls apart.
Mix 3 TBSP. cornstarch with ¼ cup water and stir into the Rhubarb mixture.
Let cool (discard lemon rind).  Serve over vanilla or cheese cake pudding.

WARNING:  When harvesting the stalks, discard the leaves.  Do not eat the leaves, either cooked or raw.  Because they contain a compound called oxalate, they can be toxic.  Although they have to be ingested in large quantities, it is better to just discard the green leaves altogether.

Please enjoy Rhubarb this spring or all through out the summer.  Enjoy that tart taste and all its health benefits.


Yusun said...

oh, interesting! i didn't know all of those facts about rhubarb! i always wondered if it was somehow related to celery, since their shape and texture are so similar... thanks for the recipe ideas!

Kaori Becker said...

wow thanks for all of these rhubarb recipes! i look forward to trying them very soon!