When you spy rhubarb in the market, it's a sign that spring is around the corner. The tartness of rhubarb is tempered by the first strawberries of the season in pies, cobblers and fruit crisps. While it's known as the pie plant because of its dessert role, rhubarb also has a place in the theater world. If a scene calls for background crowd noise, actors on stage will often murmur "rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb" because it sounds like talking.
When it's not on stage, rhubarb can be the fat free star of a savory sauceits tart flavor meshes nicely with both meat and poultry.
What to Look For
Though it's eaten as a fruit, rhubarb is really a vegetable. Its long, thick stalks look similar to celery, but they're red. Don't eat the leavesthey're poisonous. Pick firm, bright red stalks that are fairly thick. Rhubarb is an excellent source of calcium, fiber and vitamin C. It also supplies plenty of vitamin A.
How to Cook
Rhubarb won't stump the home cookit's either baked or stewed. Just make sure to cook it for a long period of time. Don't think of rhubarb only as a dessert; it makes delicious sauces too. Strawberries and rhubarb go hand and hand and other good companions are apples, ginger, oranges and cinnamon.
Pucker up for these tasty rhubarb recipes:
Michael Lomonaco's Classic Strawberry-Rhubarb Shortcakes
Patrick O'Connell's Rhubarb Pizza
Patrick O'Connell, The Inn at Little Washington
Roast Pork Loin with Rhubarb Sauce and Onion Relish
See our chefs at home article to find out more about Patrick O'Connell