What Part of the Rhubarb Do You Eat: A Comprehensive Guide

Rhubarb is a unique vegetable that has been utilized for centuries due to its medicinal properties and distinct flavor. This pink and green-hued plant has been enjoyed as both a dessert ingredient and a healing herb, but do you actually know what it is? In this article, we’ll dive into the roots of rhubarb and find out where it grows. We will also explore which part of the plant can be eaten, how to cook rhubarb, and the potential health benefits it offers. Whether you’re an experienced cook or just curious about trying something new in your kitchen, this article can help you get started with making some delicious dishes.

What is Rhubarb and Where Does it Grow?

Rhubarb is a vegetable that is often used in desserts, such as pies and crumbles. However, it is technically a perennial plant that belongs to the family Polygonaceae.

Origin and history of rhubarb cultivation

Rhubarb originated in China over 5, 000 years ago, where it was initially grown for medicinal purposes. It wasn’t until several centuries later that the plant made its way to Europe and became popular as a food crop.

In the 18th century, rhubarb became increasingly valuable due to its use as a laxative. The demand for large quantities caused commercial production to begin on an industrial scale.

Climate and growing conditions

  • Rhubarb prefers cool climates with temperatures ranging from 45°F to 75°F (7°C-24°C).
  • The soil should be moist with good drainage capabilities because waterlogging can stunt growth or cause root rot disease.
  • A sunny yet partially shaded area of your garden would be ideal for planting rhubarb because it needs at least six hours of sunlight daily.

Types of Rhubarb

There are two kinds of cultivated rhubarbs: the green-stalked varieties like Victoria which are easier cooking down into sauce since they have less acidity than red stalks; and the reddish-green stalked ones like Cherry Red which grow thicker stems perfect for turning into pies or crisps recipes when harvested right before flowering stage arrives.

  1. Green-Stalked Varieties:
    – Victoria
    – Australian Crimson

  2. Reddish-Green Stalked Varieties:
    – Cherry Red
    – MacDonald

What Part of the Rhubarb Do You Eat?

Edible Parts of the Rhubarb Plant

The edible part of the rhubarb plant is the stalks. The leaves and roots are toxic and should not be consumed as they contain high levels of oxalic acid. The stalks are typically a bright red color, but some varieties can have green or pink stalks.

Toxic Parts of the Rhubarb Plant

As mentioned earlier, the leaves and roots of rhubarb plants contain high levels of oxalic acid, which can be toxic when ingested in large amounts. It’s important to remove all traces of leaves from the stalk before cooking or eating.

Harvesting Rhubarb

The best time to harvest rhubarb is in early spring, typically between April and June. When harvesting, gently pull up on one stalk at a time until it snaps off near the base. Only take about half the stalks from each plant at any given time so that there’s enough left for future growth.

Preparation of Rhubarb for Cooking

Rhubarb can get stringy if not prepared properly. To prepare it for cooking, wash each stalk thoroughly under running water and then trim off both ends. Cut into smaller pieces depending on your recipe requirements.

  • Baked Goods – Cut rhubarb into small pieces or thin slices so that it cooks evenly in baked goods such as pies or crumbles.
  • Cooked Dishes – Cut rhubarb into larger chunks for cooked dishes such as sauces, chutneys, or jams.
  • Sautéed/Grilled – Cut large pieces at an angle so they cook evenly on the grill or sauté them in a pan.

It’s also recommended to sweeten rhubarb with sugar or honey as it has a tart taste. The ratio of sweetener will depend on your taste preference and recipe requirements. Enjoy!

How to Cook Rhubarb

Basic Cooking Methods for Rhubarb

Rhubarb is a versatile ingredient that can be cooked in many different ways to bring out its unique flavor. Here are some basic cooking methods:

  • Baking: Cut rhubarb into chunks and bake with sugar and spices. This method works well for sweet recipes like pies, tarts, and crumbles.
  • Poaching: Cook rhubarb in a syrup made of sugar, water, and other flavorings like ginger or vanilla. Poached rhubarb is great for topping yogurt or ice cream, or as a filling for cakes or pastries.
  • Sauteing: Heat oil or butter in a pan and quickly cook sliced rhubarb until it’s tender but still holds its shape. Sauteed rhubarb makes a great side dish for savory meals.

Sweet and Savory Rhubarb Recipes

Rhubarb is often associated with desserts, but it can also be used as a flavorful ingredient in savory dishes. Here are some recipe ideas:

  • Sweet Recipes:
    • Rhubarb Strawberry Crumble
    • Rhubarb Custard Pie
    • Poached Rhubarb Compote
  • Savory Recipes:
    • Rhubarb Chutney – serve along with meats like chicken or pork chops

    • Mix chopped rhubarb into salads to add an unexpected tangy crunch

Pairing Rhubarb with Other Ingredients

Rhubarb pairs well with a variety of other ingredients, both sweet and savory. Here are some suggestions:

  • Sweet Pairings: strawberries, raspberries, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon
  • Savory Pairings: chicken, pork, salmon, goat cheese

Storing Rhubarb

Rhubarb is highly perishable and should be stored carefully to prevent spoilage. Here’s how:

  • Store rhubarb in the refrigerator wrapped in paper towels to absorb excess moisture.
  • Rhubarb can also be chopped and frozen for later use in recipes.

Health Benefits of Rhubarb

If you’re looking for a healthy and tasty addition to your diet, rhubarb is worth a try. This vegetable (often used in sweet desserts) is packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Nutritional value of rhubarb

  • One cup (122 grams) of raw rhubarb contains:
    • 26 calories
    • 1 gram protein
    • 0. 2 grams fat
    • 6 grams carbohydrates
    • 2 grams fiber
    • Vitamin C (26% RDI)
    • Vitamin K1 (37% RDI)
    • Potassium (5% RDI)

    Health benefits of eating rhubarb

    Rhubarb has many health benefits due to its rich nutritional profile:

      Digestive health:

    The fiber content in rhubarb helps regulate bowel movements and supports overall digestive health. It can prevent constipation, bloating and other gastrointestinal issues.

      Bone health:

    Rhubarb contains calcium, which is essential for maintaining strong bones and preventing conditions such as osteoporosis.

      Inflammation reduction:

    The antioxidants found in rhubarbs may have anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce inflammation-related diseases like heart disease and type-2 diabetes. Some studies suggest that it carries phytochemicals like anthocyanins possess high cytoprotective agents that exert protective effects against the detrimental factors that can lead to such diseases.

      Weight management:

    Rhubarb is low in calories and high in fiber, making it an excellent food for those watching their weight. It can help promote feelings of fullness and reduce appetite, leading to fewer calories consumed throughout the day.

    Risks and side effects of consuming rhubarb

    While rhubarb offers many health benefits, it’s essential to remember that overconsumption may have negative consequences. The leaves of rhubarb contain harmful levels of oxalic acid when eat, causing symptoms like stomach upset or kidney problems if ingested in high quantities.


    Eating too much rhubarb during pregnancy may affect the baby’s kidney function due to a unique substance called anthraquinone glycosides present inside stems which is produced by Rhizobacteria during storage conditions after harvesting. So please consult your doctor before adding this vegetable into your diet while pregnant.

    Overall consumption of *rhubarb* as part of a balanced diet has been noted by nutritionists as beneficial for optimum health of consumers who do not suffer from digestive tract issues or underlying medical conditions that can be affected by high dietary intake containing oxalate contents.


    In conclusion, Rhubarb is a versatile vegetable that can add exciting flavors to many recipes. Its tart taste makes it an excellent flavoring agent in pies and desserts, while its earthy aroma works well in savory stews. Along with possessing fantastic culinary traits, rhubarb also boasts several significant health benefits that make it worth adding to your diet.


    Is rhubarb safe for consumption?

    Yes! Although rhubarb leaves are toxic when ingested raw or unprocessed because they contain oxalic acid.

    Can I grow my own rhubarbs at home?

    Definitely! Rhubarbs grow best in cool climates during springtime when temperatures range from 40°F-75°F.

    Apart from being used as food ingredients why else might someone consume Rhubard?

    Rhubarb contains fiber antioxidants like Vitamin A & C among other essential minerals including potassium & magnesium which promotes colon health by preventing diarrhea & constipation while easing digestion-related complications.