Try this tart, traditional springtime vegetable

Rhubarb adds a distinct flavor to savory dishes as well as desserts such as pies and cakes

Rhubarb is a traditional spring vegetable  often used as a fruit.

Its unique tart taste makes it a favorite in many pies and desserts, but rhubarb sauce and chutney are also delicious accompaniments to meats.

To offset its sour taste, rhubarb is often combined with sugar. But sugar-free rhubarb dishes are easier than you might think. 

 When making rhubarb cake or muffins, replace the sugar with fruit juice concentrates or mild tasting fruit, such as pears or apples. 

Rhubarb was first harvested in Asia more than 2,000 years ago and was traded as a commodity in Marco Polo’s day. It was initially cultivated for its medicinal qualities, and not grown for culinary purposes until the 18th century.

Commonly mistaken to be a fruit, rhubarb is a close relative of garden sorrel and thus is a member of the vegetable family. It is rich in vitamin C and dietary fiber.

Rhubarb helps the digestive tract, but should be avoided by those susceptible to kidney stones. 

Rhubarb is a perennial plant that forms large fleshy rhizomes and large leaves with long, thick stalks. While the stalks are used in meals, the leaves contain poison and should not be eaten. 

The leaves can be used in an aphid spray. Chop three to five rhubarb leaves, then add them to a cup of water. Boil the mixture for 30 minutes, then strain. Add a dash of liquid non-detergent soap to the water. Fill a spray bottle with the water and use on aphids. 

Because the leaves are poisonous, the spray should not be used on edible plants, only on ornamentals.

After harvesting rhubarb, the stalks can be wrapped in damp paper towels in a plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator for as long as a week.

Following are some rhubarb recipes from, and

Rhubarb Bars

For crust:
1-1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup cold butter, cubed
1/4 cup powdered sugar
For filling:
3 large eggs, beaten
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoons salt
4 cups rhubarb, diced

    For crust, combine flour and powdered sugar in a medium bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
    Pat crumbs into a well greased 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly browned.
    Mix together eggs, sugar, flour and salt.
Gently stir in diced rhubarb. Pour rhubarb mixture over the hot crust. Return bars to the oven, then reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until filling is set and no longer jiggly.
    Cool for 30 minutes on the counter, then refrigerate until chilled before cutting into bars.
    Reduce the amount of sugar to 1 cup if you prefer a more tart dessert.
    Makes 24 bars.


Double Crumb Rhubarb Coffeecake

For coffeecake:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups rhubarb, finely diced
For crumb topping:
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons cold butter

    Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl until fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in Greek yogurt.
    In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and baking soda. Gently stir flour into the wet ingredients until just combined. Mix in two-thirds of the diced rhubarb.
    To make crumb topping, stir together brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in cold butter with a pastry blender.
    Spread half the batter in a greased 9-by-13-inch pan. Sprinkle with half of the crumb mixture and remaining rhubarb. Top with the other half of the batter and sprinkle with the remaining crumb topping.
    Bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 to 32 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the cake just barely comes clean. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
    Makes 18 servings.


Rhubarb Streusel Muffins

For topping:
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
For muffins:
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2-1/2 cups diced rhubarb
3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup milk
2 large eggs, room temperature
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

    Make streusel by melting butter and stirring in the flour, brown sugar and salt until crumbly. Set aside.
    For muffins, stir together brown sugar and diced rhubarb in a small bowl.
    Whisk together  flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.
    Beat together the butter, sour cream, milk, eggs and vanilla extract.
    Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently fold together. Do not overmix — there should still be streaks of flour. Gently stir in rhubarb.
    Divide batter between 12 muffin cups with paper liners, then top with streusel. Bake in a 400-degree oven for five minutes. Without opening the oven, turn the heat down to 350 degrees and bake another 12 to 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
    Makes 12 muffins.

Sparkling Rhubarb Lemonade

1-1/2 cups chopped rhubarb
1-1/2  cups water
3/4 cup sugar
1 6-ounce can frozen pink lemonade
2 fresh lemons
16 to 20 ounces lemon-lime soda

    Bring rhubarb, sugar and water to a boil.  Simmer for five to 10 minutes. Strain and discard the solids.  
    Add the frozen lemonade and the juice of one fresh lemon. Chill until cold.  
    When ready to serve, add soda.
    Slice the remaining lemon for garnish.  Pour lemonade over ice and add lemon slices.


Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce or Syrup

2 cups fresh rhubarb, chopped
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 to 5 drops red food coloring, optional

    Combine rhubarb, water, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook 15 minutes.  
    Add strawberries, lemon juice and food coloring. Cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, until rhubarb is soft and tender. Remove from heat and cool.     
    Makes approxiamtely 2-1/2 cups sauce.


Rhubarb Cheesecake Pie

1 unbaked pie crust, chilled
1-3/4 cup sugar
3-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound rhubarb, diced
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup heavy whipping cream

    In saucepan, mix 1 cup sugar, cornstarch and salt.  Add rhubarb and toss well to coat.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for eight to 10 minutes, until boiling and thickened. Pour into pie shell and bake in 425-degree oven for 10 minutes.
    Remove pie, but do not turn off oven.
    In mixer bowl, cream the cream cheese and 1/2 cup sugar. Add eggs and mix until blended. Pour mixture over the rhubarb in pie shell. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake about 30 minutes, until set.
    Remove pie, but do not turn off oven.
    Stir together sour cream, 2 tablespoons sugar and vanilla. Pour over pie and carefully spread to edges. Return pie to oven and bake five more minutes.
    Place pie on a wire rack and allow to cool.  Chill pie at least two hours or overnight.
    When ready to serve, whip cream with 2 tablespoons sugar until soft peaks form.  Spread over pie.
    If rhubarb doesn’t produce a pretty color, you may add a drop of red food color.

Rhubarb Ginger Cream Scones

2 cups frozen rhubarb, thawed, coarsely chopped
6 tablespoons sugar
2-1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup finely chopped candied or crystallized ginger
1 tablespoon peeled, finely grated fresh ginger root
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup heavy whipping cream
    Place rhubarb and 2 tablespoons sugar in small bowl. Toss to combine. Set aside.
    Combine flour, remaining sugar, candied ginger, grated ginger, baking powder and salt in bowl. Add butter and toss to coat. Using pastry blender or fork, work butter into flour until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
    Add rhubarb to flour mixture, then toss to coat with flour.
    Stir in egg and whipping cream with fork, incorporating dry ingredients until a shaggy dough forms. It will look a little dry so do not overwork it. Lightly knead dough on floured surface until dough comes together.
    Pat dough into a nine-inch circle, about 3/4-inch thick. Cut into 12 wedges. Transfer wedges to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush dough with additional whipping cream. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until scones are light golden brown.
    Serve with butter. Store any leftover scones lightly covered at room temperature.


Rhubarb Pie on a Stick

For filling:
2 stalks fresh rhubarb,  sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
For crust:
1-1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 to 3 tablespoons ice water
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon water
 White decorator sanding sugar
     Combine rhubarb, sugar, brown sugar, cornstarch and 1/8 teaspoon salt in saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until bubbly and thickened. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled.
    Combine flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt in food processor bowl fitted with metal blade. Add butter, then pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add 1 tablespoon water at a time, pulsing between each addition, just until dough forms. Shape dough into  a disk and flatten slightly. Wrap in plastic food wrap and refrigerate one hour or until firm.
    Place egg and 1 tablespoon water in bowl. Beat with whisk. Set aside.
    Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut dough into circles, using 4-1/2-inch round biscuit or cookie cutter. Cut each circle in half and brush edges with egg wash.
    Place rounded teaspoon of filling onto one side of dough. Place craft stick along edge of filled half. Fold remaining dough over filling and crimp edges using fork. Cut a small “x” in top of dough to vent. Brush top with egg wash and sprinkle with sanding sugar.
    Place pies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in a 375-degree oven for 13 to 15 minutes, until edges are golden brown.
    Cool pies on baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool completely.




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