Rhubarb is a unique vegetable that is often used in desserts and baked goods. However, basically no one in the history of mankind has tried rhubarb strictly on its own. So, what does rhubarb taste like? Let’s find out!
What Does Rhubarb Taste Like?
Let’s just straight in!
When eaten raw, rhubarb has a strong sour taste that can be overwhelming for some people. However, when cooked, the sourness is reduced, and the sweetness is enhanced. The flavor of rhubarb is often compared to that of a green apple or a lemon.
One thing to consider though is that not all rhubarb is created (or picked) equally. The sweetness of rhubarb varies depending on the variety and the time of year it is harvested. Generally, the earlier in the season the rhubarb is harvested, the sweeter it will be. As the season progresses, the rhubarb becomes more tart and less sweet.
Rhubarb is often paired with sweet fruits, such as strawberries or raspberries, to balance out that tartness. However, it can also be used in savory dishes, such as chutneys and sauces, to add a lovely tangy flavor.
Rhubarb in Different Forms
Here are some common ways that rhubarb is used:
- Raw: Rhubarb can be eaten raw, but it is very tart and sour. It is often paired with sugar to balance out the sourness.
- Cooked: Cooking rhubarb softens it and makes it less tart. It can be cooked on its own or with other fruits to create compotes, sauces, and jams.
- Pies and Desserts: Rhubarb is a popular ingredient in pies and other sweet desserts. It is often combined with strawberries or other fruits to create a sweet and tangy flavor.
- Chutney and Salsa: Rhubarb can also be used to make savory dishes like chutneys and salsas. These dishes often include other ingredients like onions, garlic, and spices.
- Freeze: Rhubarb can be frozen for later use in pies, crisps, and other desserts.
- Pickled: Pickled rhubarb is a tangy and flavorful addition to sandwiches, salads, and other dishes.
- Stewed: Stewed rhubarb is a simple and delicious dessert that can be served on its own or with ice cream.
- Rhubarb Crisp: Rhubarb crisp is a classic dessert that combines sweet and tart flavors. It is made with a crumbly topping of flour, sugar, and butter.
Cooking with Rhubarb
Rhubarb’s tart flavor pairs well with sweet fruits like strawberries and apples, making it a very popular choice for pies, jams, and sauces. Rhubarb can also add a unique tang to savory dishes like stews and roasted meats.
When cooking with rhubarb, it’s important to note that the texture can vary depending on how it’s prepared. Fresh rhubarb is firm and crunchy, while cooked rhubarb becomes soft and tender. To maintain the texture of fresh rhubarb, it should be stored in the refrigerator and used within a few days of harvest.
One popular way to enjoy rhubarb is in baked goods like pies, tarts, and crumbles. Rhubarb pairs well with sweet fruits like strawberries and can be used in a variety of recipes. When baking with rhubarb, it’s important to balance the tartness with sugar and other sweeteners.
Roasting rhubarb is another option that can bring out its natural sweetness. Simply toss fresh rhubarb with a little oil and roast in the oven until tender. Roasted rhubarb can be used in salads, as a topping for yogurt or oatmeal, or as a snack on its own.
For savory dishes, rhubarb can be added to stews and casseroles to add a tangy flavor. It pairs well with roasted meats like pork and chicken, and can be used to make a flavorful sauce.
Rhubarb in Different Cultures
Rhubarb has a long and interesting history that spans across many different cultures. Here are some examples of how rhubarb is used in different parts of the world:
In Europe, rhubarb is commonly used in desserts such as pies, tarts, and crumbles. It is also used to make jams, compotes, and sauces. In the UK, rhubarb is often referred to as the “pie plant” due to its popularity as a pie filling.
In the United States, rhubarb is commonly found at farmers markets and is used in a variety of dishes such as pies, crisps, and cobblers. It is also used to make jams and sauces.
Rhubarb has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. It is believed to have medicinal properties and is commonly used to treat digestive issues. In Chinese cuisine, rhubarb is used in savory dishes such as stir-fries and soups.
Maincrop rhubarb is the most common type of rhubarb and is typically grown in the UK. It is harvested from late April to June and has a bright red color with a tart flavor. It is commonly used in desserts and jams.
As mentioned earlier, rhubarb is often referred to as the “pie plant” due to its popularity as a pie filling. Its tart flavor pairs well with sweet ingredients such as sugar and strawberries.
Rhubarb Pairings and Combinations
- Honey: The sweetness of honey complements the tartness of rhubarb. Try using honey as a sweetener in rhubarb desserts or in a rhubarb sauce for pork.
- Pork: Rhubarb sauce is a classic pairing with pork. The sweetness of the rhubarb sauce balances the richness of the pork. Try adding ginger to the sauce for extra flavor.
- Juice: Rhubarb juice is a refreshing beverage that can be enjoyed on its own or mixed with other juices. Try mixing rhubarb juice with lemonade or grape juice for a delicious summer drink.
- Ginger: Ginger adds a spicy kick to rhubarb dishes. Try adding ginger to a rhubarb compote or using it in a rhubarb cocktail.
- Maple Syrup: Maple syrup adds a rich sweetness to rhubarb dishes. Try using it as a sweetener in a rhubarb pie or adding it to a rhubarb sauce for chicken.
- Firm: Rhubarb is often used in desserts, but it can also be used in savory dishes. Try adding chopped rhubarb to a salad for a tangy crunch.
- Deep Red: Deep red rhubarb has a more intense flavor than lighter varieties. Try using it in recipes that call for rhubarb to really make the flavor pop.
- Lemons: Lemons add a bright, citrusy flavor to rhubarb dishes. Try adding lemon zest to a rhubarb compote or using lemon juice in a rhubarb cocktail.
- Grapes: Grapes add a sweet, fruity flavor to rhubarb dishes. Try adding chopped grapes to a rhubarb crisp or using grape juice in a rhubarb cocktail.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is rhubarb poisonous?
The leaves of the rhubarb plant are toxic due to the presence of oxalic acid. However, the stalks are safe to eat and are commonly used in cooking.
What are some rhubarb recipes?
Rhubarb can be used in a variety of sweet and savory dishes, including pies, jams, sauces, and even cocktails. Some popular recipes include strawberry rhubarb pie, rhubarb crumble, and rhubarb chutney.
Is rhubarb a fruit or vegetable?
Rhubarb is often considered a vegetable due to its tart flavor and use in savory dishes. However, it is technically a fruit, as it is the edible stalk of the rhubarb plant.
How do you cook rhubarb on the stove?
To cook rhubarb on the stove, chop the stalks into small pieces and place them in a saucepan with a small amount of water and sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is soft and tender.
What are some flavor pairings for rhubarb?
Rhubarb pairs well with sweet fruits like strawberries, raspberries, and apples, as well as warm spices like cinnamon and ginger. It also complements savory flavors like pork and chicken.
Can you eat rhubarb raw?
While it is safe to eat raw rhubarb, the stalks are extremely tart and can be unpleasant to eat on their own. It is best to cook rhubarb before eating it to help balance out the flavor.