What Does Rhubarb Taste Like? [Plus, Delicious Ideas For Using It]

Rhubarb is a vegetable, though some would think it was a fruit. It is most notoriously known for being the partner to the strawberry in a strawberry rhubarb pie. But if you’ve never had it before you may be wondering what rhubarb tastes like?

Rhubarb has a very tart and slightly sour taste. Due to this strong taste, it’s almost never eaten on its own and is instead combined with sweeter fruits to make it palatable.

I have found that rhubarb is an underrated vegetable that many people have never tried. The most common way people have eaten rhubarb is in strawberry rhubarb pie. In this article, I’ll go over rhubarb, including how it tastes, and different ways to use it in dishes.

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fresh rhubarb stems piled up for sale at a farmer's market

Where Does Rhubarb Come From? 

Rhubarb originated in central Asia in the cold climate of Mongolia. It then spread to Europe and the Middle East and was used for thousands of years.

The rhubarb is a perennial plant that is easily and commonly grown in many family gardens. When it comes to successfully growing rhubarb, the vegetable requires a cold winter to be fully ready to harvest in the later months as a hearty stalk.

While I refer to the rhubarb as a vegetable, in 1947 New York’s Custom’s Control declared the rhubarb as a fruit since it’s mainly how other fruits are. But in actuality, rhubarb is a vegetable and I will be referring to it as such throughout this article.

Related: See what other vegetables are commonly thought of as fruits and vice versa.

What Part Of Rhubarb Is Edible?

The only part of the rhubarb that is used or edible is the stalk, similar to celery. With celery, you can consume every part of the vegetable whereas the leaves of rhubarb cannot be consumed and are quite dangerous if ingested.

What is Rhubarb Used For? 

Rhubarb stalks are commonly used as a major ingredient in baking and dessert dishes, such as pies and galettes. Rhubarb has also been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years due to its many health benefits. 

What Are The Benefits Of Eating Rhubarb?

This particular vegetable has a tart, somewhat sour flavor to it which has been known to help individuals who suffer or have digestive problems.

Other benefits of incorporating rhubarb into one’s diet include a high source vitamin K, C, and calcium. For those looking at ways of either maintaining or losing weight, rhubarb is a great vegetable to eat or juice!

Which, for some, can sometimes be the only way to eat their vegetables. Don’t forget to remove the leaves first since those are poisonous.

Rhubarb Recipe Ideas

Consider incorporating rhubarb into your next shopping trip this fall. Not sure how to bring a splash of rhubarb to your dining table? 

Here are a few popular dishes that rhubarb can help when it comes to either cooking or eating it for the first time:

Rhubarb Lentil Soup – If you are a fan of lentils, why not give it a tangy hit with rhubarb. Rhubarb lentil soup would be a great spring or summer dish to offer friends and family.

Pickled Rhubarb – Move over pickles and onions, there’s a new pickled vegetable in town. Rhubarb can be pickled and then served cold as part of a salad. Their tartness also makes a great addition to sandwiches and wraps.

BBQ Sauce – Tired of store-bought BBQ sauce? Why not consider making your own with some rhubarb. For the vegans in my life, a rhubarb BBQ sauce can enhance any dish from ordinary to mouthwatering deliciousness. 

Rhubarb Coconut Crumble – For the sweet-tooth lover, consider replacing the apple or strawberry in crumble bars with rhubarb. Better yet, why not combine raspberry with rhubarb to add a bit more sweetness. 

Rhubarb Bread – Consider rhubarb bread as a morning boost. I find that with rhubarb as the base, I can enhance the loaf by adding pecans, cinnamon, or almond. 

Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Pops – Cool down with a sweet and tartly strawberry rhubarb ice pop. It is an easy to make dessert.

You can replace strawberries with other fruits that you may have lying around the house. Feeling adventurous? Or, maybe you want to make an adult dessert, consider adding a splash of vodka or gin.

Tips For Buying Rhubarb

When purchasing rhubarb for the first time, consider keeping an eye out on the following: 

  • Firm and crisp 
  • Shine to the outer layer
  • No indents or breaks to the stalk
  • No smell of mold
  • When held, it stands tall and not limp

First-time buyers of rhubarb should look for stalks with broad leaves, as stalks with smaller leaves mean that the vegetable had been harvested a bit too early.

If rhubarb with smaller leaves are picked, don’t worry, the stalk is still edible. It is just going to need some additional spices and herbs to get the flavor you are seeking. 

Tips For Storing Rhubarb

Once you have selected your rhubarb for cooking, consider the following tips as ways of keeping it as fresh as possible. 

  • Dry the stalks – don’t store it when it is wet.
  • Cut when ready to use – if you cut the stalks but don’t plan to use them, it can dry it out faster than if you left it uncut. It can also lose its flavor. 
  • If freezing rhubarb, seal in an airtight bag or container. 

Rhubarb Fast Facts

When it comes to cooking and buying rhubarb, not every shopper knows that approximately a pound of rhubarb equates to three cups of chopped rhubarb. If you are looking to cook rhubarb, two cups of cooked rhubarb are equal to a pound of stalks. 

Why does this matter? If you are looking to determine how much rhubarb you need, knowing how many cups are needed can help break down how many pounds of rhubarb you need.

Another interesting fact about this underrated vegetable is the name, rhubarb. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, rhubarb also means an intense argument or dispute.

If you are looking for another word to describe your next fight, why not call it a rhubarb?

Final Thoughts On Rhubarb

If you are looking to add a splash of color to your diet, bring in rhubarb for its redness. It’s a vegetable that offers many dietary benefits, not to mention, it’s one of the most versatile vegetables out there.

How many vegetables can act as fruit? None quite like rhubarb! 

Let me know what you think about rhubarb’s immensely tarte taste. What’s your favorite way to cook it?

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Stephanie Mantilla

Plant-Based Diet & Vegan Lifestyle Expert

Stephanie is the founder of Plant Prosperous, a plant-based vegan living, and parenting blog. She has been eating a plant-based diet for over 24 years along with a B.S. in Biology & Environmental Science. She also has over 14 years of experience working in the environmental and conservation sectors. Stephanie is currently raising her son on a plant-based diet and hopes to help others who are wanting to do the same. You can read more about her here.

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