Nutritional Value and Health Benefits of Rhubarb

Nutritionally, it is low in calories and very acidic (pH 3.1). The acid is offset by the addition of sugar, which also increases the calorie count. Rhubarb is 95 percent water and has potassium and a modest amount of vitamin C. Although rhubarb can be tough and stringy, it does not contain a great deal of fiber, only 2 grams per cup. Unfortunately the high calcium content it supplies is bound by oxalic acid, so it is not easily absorbed by the body. Don't count on rhubarb as a source of dietary calcium.

Nutrition Facts

1 cup diced, uncooked

  • Calories: 26
  • Dietary Fiber: 2 grams
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Carbohydrates: 6 grams
  • Vitamin C: 10 mg
  • Vitamin A: 122 IU
  • Folic Acid: 8.7 mcg
  • Calcium: 105 mg
  • Potassium: 351 mg

Preparation and Serving

Rhubarb requires the addition of sugar to combat its extreme tartness. The early pink-stems seem to produce the best flavor for cooking. Rhubarb is often considered a fruit, but it is actually a vegetable (leaf stem). It is prized for its mouth-puckering tartness which adds zest to pies, tarts, cold soups, jam, and a host of other desserts.

Many other flavors are flattered by the sourness of rhubarb. In the U.S., it is most often teamed up with strawberries and baked into pies and tarts. A typical English preparation would use ginger, while the French may puree it into a sauce and serve it with fish.


When cooking fresh rhubarb

Use a vegetable peeler to remove any brown or scaly spots. Peeling the entire stalk is unnecessary, simply trim the ends and wash and dry the stalks.

Always use a non-reactive pan for cooking this high acid plant. Use anodized aluminum, stainless steel, Teflon coated aluminum, or enamel-coated cast iron cookware.

Rhubarb cooked in reactive metal pots (aluminum, iron, and copper) will turn an unappetizing brown color. Metal ions flaking off the pan will interact with acids in the fruit to form brown compounds that darken both the pan and the rhubarb.


Home Preservation

To freeze: Chop into 1/2-inch pieces, spread them on a sheet pan and place in the freezer. Once frozen, slide the rhubarb into heavy-duty plastic freezer bags. Seal tightly and put back into the freezer. Packed this way, rhubarb will keep for up to six months, and can be measured from the freezer bag.