This blog post was written by Illinois State University graduate student and dietetic intern, Hope Rasmussen.
Spring is here, which means that the fresh produce from the garden is ready or on the way. Growing up, my mom would send us kids outside to pick the produce before mealtime. My favorite to do (because it was the easiest) was pull out the stalks of rhubarb.
Even though rhubarb is served in many sweet recipes such as pies, cakes, breads, and jams, it is technically a vegetable. Among other members of the buckwheat family, rhubarb has a sour taste and is ready-to-go in the spring. While rhubarb varieties can differ in color (red to green), sourness and fibrousness, all rhubarb leaves are toxic and should not be consumed. This is due to the excessive amount of oxalic acid that the leaves contain. Rhubarb stalks also contain oxalic acid, but in lower amounts, so generally they are safe to consume.
Rhubarb stalks can be picked when they reach their full length (one to two feet). Avoid using a knife to cut through the stalks because it can spread diseases to different plants, and the opened remains of the plant can act as a point of entry for unwanted pests. It is best to have a firm grip on the stalk, pull, and twist until the whole stalk is unearthed. Right away, the rhubarb leaves should be trimmed and discarded. Then, the stalks can be stored unwashed in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer in the fridge. To prepare, wash and dry the rhubarb and cut off the ends. These can be cut up in one fourth inch slices to be used or stored in the freezer for a later time.
Finish off your summer meals with a dessert that includes some rhubarb and other produce to add a splash of red, white, and blue.
Rhubarb Berry Crisp
2 cups hulled and quartered strawberries
1 cup blueberries
1 cup rhubarb (1/4-to-1/2-inch slices)
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
¾ cup old-fashioned oats
¾ cup flour
1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
3 Tablespoons plain yogurt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 2-quart baking dish. In a large bowl, mix together berries, rhubarb, honey, cornstarch, vanilla, and lemon juice. Pour mixture in baking dish. In a medium bowl, stir the oats, flour, brown sugar, and salt. Add the butter and yogurt and stir until all ingredients are incorporated. Spread topping over the filling. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes or until fruit is juicy and bubbling and the top is golden brown. Let the crisp cool for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream on the side!
Yield: 9 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving): 200 calories, 6 grams fat, 80 milligrams sodium, 35 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 3 grams protein
Source: MacKenzie, J. (2018). Growing rhubarb in Home Gardens. UMN Extension. Retrieved May 12, 2022.
Photo Credit: Kaori Nohara via Unsplash