Reciplease! Rhubarb isn’t just for pies

recipleaselogoLast week and the week before were devoted to that sweetest of spring-peaking fruits, the strawberry.

Rhubarb is a natural next step, right?

Now listen. I love a good strawberry rhubarb pie as much as the next person, but that’s not what I’m pushing on you this week.

Rhubarb, with its strong, tart flavor, is obviously fantastic when paired with sweet berries and sugar.

But have you ever just, you know, cooked it?

Before I wield positive peer pressure to persuade you to do just that, here are a few fun facts about rhubarb:

  • Is it a fruit or vegetable? In 1947, a New York Court decided that even though rhubarb is technically a vegetable, its primary use in the U.S. was as a fruit, so it should be classified as such.
  • Rhubarb is grown year-round in greenhouses. “Hothouse rhubarb” is a brighter shade of red and is often more tender than the outdoor rhubarb that peaks in our hemisphere between April and June.
  • Rhubarb’s colors can vary from red to pink to green, and the color has little to do with ripeness or its suitability for cooking or baking. Some varieties are even speckled.
It's too hot to bake a pie, and doesn't this look like it would make a great salad? Photo by Flickr user Heather Quintal.

It’s too hot to bake a pie, and doesn’t this look like it would make a great salad? Photo by Flickr user Heather Quintal.

Buying tip: Look for crisp stalks and greens that aren’t wilted.

Storage tip:  Fresh rhubarb doesn’t keep very long. Wrap it in plastic and use it within four or five days, or cut it into smaller pieces and freeze it.

Rhubarb also cans very well, and of course, is often seen paired with strawberries in jams and compotes.

And now, your non-pie, who-needs-strawberries rhubarb recipe:

Sweet and sour rhubarb and spinach salad (courtesy of The Rhubarb Compendium)

  • 4 stalks crisp rhubarb, cut into thin slices
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil*
  • Fresh spinach, rinsed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a wide sauce pan or deep skillet, arrange rhubarb in a single layer, then cover with about an inch of water. Add sugar. Bring to a boil and cook for two minutes. Remove from heat, strain rhubarb and reserve the liquid in a bowl. Return the liquid to the pan. Stir in vinegar, salt and pepper and cook over high heat until the liquid reduces to about half a cup. Remove from heat and whisk in oil. Arrange spinach on plate, top with cooked rhubarb and drizzle with sweet and sour dressing. Serve immediately.

Who am I kidding? I want to eat this, too. Photo by Flickr user burke_wicker.

Who am I kidding? I want to eat this, too. Photo by Flickr user burke_wicker.

It doesn’t get much more simple than that for a warm summer salad.

Plus, you’re trying a fruit (vegetable?) in a new way.

Right?

OK. Fine. If you still need a sugar fix, Martha Stewart has a 45-strong rhubarb recipe roundup.

Stacia M. Fleegal

York Daily Record multiplatform journalist. Degrees in creative writing from Lycoming College and Spalding University, and a coupla books with my name on them. Central PA native who came home after floating around for a while, but always grounded by words and the places and people I remember.

You may also like...

2 Responses

  1. June 15, 2013

    [...] up some rhubarb at your local farmers market and try a sweet and sour rhubarb and spinach salad. Or, if you fancy strawberries, try your hand at homemade jam using one of three [...]

  2. June 27, 2013

    [...] the rhubarb post, in which I elected not to give a seasonally appropriate, albeit expected, strawberry-rhubarb [...]

Leave a Reply