In Season in May: Rhubarb

My granddad was the king of growing rhubarb, and so between April and June, there was always a rhubarb crumble and rhubarb pie ready to be devoured!

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What is it?

Rhubarb is actually a vegetable, although in America in 1974 it was decided that it should now be considered a fruit, so feel free to take your pick. Rhubarb has long red stalks, similar in shape and size to a stick of celery, with very large leaves. The leaves are usually removed before being sold in supermarkets as they are poisonous and should not be eaten. The colour of the stalks can vary from a pale pink to a bright red, but regardless of the colour, the stalks are edible.

Rhubarb is grown in two separate ways. One way is forced, which is growing the rhubarb in sheds or under large pots. This rhubarb is ready to harvest around January/February time and usually has much paler stalks and leaves. The other way is growing the rhubarb outdoors, ready to harvest in spring. This is called maincrop rhubarb and produces stalks that are a dark red and leaves that are a bright green. Maincrop rhubarb has a stronger flavour than forced rhubarb and in my opinion makes for a better taste in crumbles and pies.

rhubarb

When can I buy?

So despite the title of this post, you can buy forced rhubarb early in the year. However the taste and texture is quite different from maincrop rhubarb and doesn’t quite do the vegetable justice. Weather permitted, you should start to see maincrop rhubarb in markets from April, with larger and brighter stalks of rhubarb appearing in May.

Health benefits.

One stalk of rhubarb contains

  • 44mg of calcium
  • 148mg of potassium
  • 87mcg of lutein
  • 51UI (international units) of vitamin A

The lutein and vitamin A found in rhubarb is great for reducing night blindness and protecting the eyes from sun damage.

How to prepare it.

Rhubarb is very tart, and so you will need to cook it first with some sort of sweetener like coconut sugar or honey. Commonly used in pies and crumbles, you can also make jams and chutneys with rhubarb. By adjusting the amount of sweetener you use, you can enjoy the tartness of rhubarb as much or as little as you like.

Recipes.

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