Although classified as a vegetable, rhubarb is often treated like a fruit in the kitchen. Popular in jams, jellies, and baked goods (muffins or pies), the stalk becomes soft and tart when cooked. In case you have never seen rhubarb, at first glance it looks like a bright red celery stalk (although it lacks the definite “ribbing” that celery has). The plant also comes in a green variety, but red rhubarb is the one you will likely find in stores. The leaves of the plant contain substances that are considered toxic, so never eat them.
Nutrition Tidbits for Rhubarb
- One cup of diced, uncooked rhubarb contains:
- Calories: 26 kcal
- Fat: 0.2g
- Carbohydrates: 5.5 g
- Protein: 1.1 g
- Fiber: 2.2 g
- Glycemic Index (GI): Low (below 55)
Rhubarb is low in calories and high in fiber, and is a source of Vitamin K (which has an important role in blood clotting). A cup of diced rhubarb provides 1/3 of the daily recommended intake of this vitamin. Some studies show Vitamin K also helps maintain strong bones in the elderly.
When buying rhubarb, look for firm stalks with no blemishes or squishy spots. Trim and discard leaves and wrinkled stalk ends. The stalks will keep for a few days in the refrigerator, or can be frozen raw (cut them into 1-inch pieces for ease of use later on). Rhubarb is extremely tart, and therefore requires quite a lot of sugar to “undo” its sourness. If you are watching your sugar intake, try using rhubarb in a recipe that uses rhubarb’s tartness to its advantage instead of dousing the sour taste with sugar.
Ways to Include More Rhubarb in Your Diet
- Add it to baked goods – muffins, loaves, or as pie filling. Rhubarb goes well with strawberries and there are many recipes that pair these two together. Ginger is another good flavor companion
- Blanch and use in salsa
- Grate and add it into your stuffing mix for poultry