So you decided to grow rhubarb in your garden and you are loaded with it! Now what? You can only make so many strawberry rhubarb pies before you go into diabetic shock. To help you out, I’ve put together a collection of recipes and tips for growing rhubarb and for using up your harvested rhubarb. Cooking with rhubarb can be fun! Let’s get started!
Tip #1: Growing rhubarb in your garden is EASY and fun!
Here is my Chipman’s Canada Red Rhubarb plant. I got it from my sister-in-law when hers grew too big. I tilled the earth a little bit to loosen up the soil, pulled any weeds, added some compost, and planted the cuttings and crown last summer. It took off! I am so happy with how big this one plant is. It is a welcome addition to my garden.
Growing rhubarb in the garden is so rewarding. It takes up about 3′ of space, so plan accordingly. It takes very little effort to care for it. Just make sure it is planted in a sunny area with a weed-free environment. For the first 2 years of life, it needs water 2-3 times per week, about 6″ deep. After year three, just like a tree, it prefers deep watering every 1-2 weeks, about 12″ deep.
Rhubarb crowns can be divided once the plant is 5 years old. Then you can have two plants! To help your rhubarb plant get the nutrients it needs, use a well-balanced fertilizer (16-16-16) once every spring before the leaves come out. Rhubarb is a perennial plant, so it will come back year after year! In light of that, I like to lightly mulch my rhubarb in the winter to protect it from the cold. (For more information about growing rhubarb, check out this fact sheet from the USU Extension Website.)
Tip #2: In order to harvest rhubarb, all you need is a sharp knife
In zone 6, rhubarb is at its peak from April-June, but this fairly sweet cultivar can be harvested up until the fall! It is best to wait until your rhubarb plant is 2 years old before harvesting to allow the roots to strengthen.
To harvest rhubarb, reach down into the plant and with a sharp knife, cut the stalk off near the crown base of the plant. You will get a long stalk with a gigantic leaf attached to it. I always choose the largest stalks closest to the ground first since rhubarb grows from the center of the crown.
After harvesting the stalk, you will need to cut off the leaf. Please note that rhubarb leaves are poisonous. You can compost them or throw them away, but DO NOT eat them.
Tip #3: You can store rhubarb in the fridge, freezer, or can it for later use
After you harvest your rhubarb, you need to use it right away or store it. I like to wash my rhubarb with cold water and then put it in a gallon-sized ziplock bag in the refrigerator. I try to only harvest what I will be using. Although rhubarb can store 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator, if I can’t use it in a week, then I usually dice it up into bite-sized pieces, blanch it for a minute in boiling water, and then store it in the freezer.
Here is an article with more information on how to freeze rhubarb:
Rhubarb season is short, but you can use the vegetable year-round if you follow our freezing and storage advice. A delicious and underutilized vegetable, rhubarb is at its peak from April until June-just in time for Easter and Mother’s Day. Also known as pieplant, it has a tart flavor and bright color.
If you don’t have room in your freezer, you can also can your rhubarb to preserve it! Make some delicious rhubarb jam or can it plain for later use in baking.
Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means I will earn a commission at no additional cost to you, if you click through and make a purchase. Regardless, I only link to products we use on our homestead or believe in. Preserving rhubarb is one of my favorite spring forays, especially canning rhubarb.
A rhubarb lover’s delight! Rhubarb jam, pure and simple, with the consistency of apple butter. This jam also freezes well, but it will probably get eaten up before making it to the freezer! Fabulous!
Tip #4: Cooking with rhubarb is delicious when paired with strawberries!
I love rhubarb! But it’s tart. Adding strawberries to your rhubarb helps enhance the flavor and color. Like peach crisp, a traditional use of rhubarb is to make a pie or crisp. Check out these recipes!
Every spring, we had strawberries and rhubarb on our farm outside Seattle. These fruity hand pies remind me of those times and of Grandma Winnie’s baking. -Shawn Carleton, San Diego, California Total Time Prep: 25 min. + chilling Bake: 15 min.
This paleo strawberry rhubarb crisp was a total hit with my husband who had no idea it was anything different than the original. Yummy!
Tip #5: Rhubarb isn’t just for pie or crisp! Try making some strawberry rhubarb muffins, cakes, jams, and dessert rhubarb custard bars to shake things up!
Don’t be limited by thinking that rhubarb is only for pie. There are so many other delicacies that can make cooking with rhubarb a treat! Try one of these sweet rhubarb recipes:
A sweet, crispy topping highlights these tender muffins that are filled with two favorite spring foods, rhubarb and strawberries. They’re perfect for a brunch or a grab-and-go breakfast. -Audrey Stallsmith, Hadley, Pennsylvania
My Rhubarb Breakfast Cake is a classic, puffed up, fruity snack cake ~ the kind your grandma made, if you were lucky. It’s packed with jammy bits of sweet/tart rhubarb and it’s officially my favorite way to start the day. The texture is just perfect, it’s not too sweet, and the tart rhubarb gives it a unique flavor.
This tangy Strawberry Rhubarb Jam recipe is a favorite with my family. They’ll put it on almost anything, but especially like it on muffins or buttermilk biscuits. -Deb Kooistra, Kitchener, Ontario
Once I tried these rich, gooey bars, I just had to have the recipe so I could make them for my family and friends. The shortbreadlike crust and the rhubarb and custard layers inspire people to find rhubarb that they can use to fix a batch for themselves.
A friend gave me this recipe a long time ago. It’s rich and creamy yet refreshing. I make this often in early summer when rhubarb is readily available. -Norma DesRoches, Warwick, Rhode Island
Tip #6: Although rhubarb is tart and needs to be sweetened, there are several healthier options when cooking with rhubarb
Rhubarb needs some sort of sweetener, however, you can bake it in oatmeal and make low-sugar recipes while still enjoying the complex flavor of rhubarb. I personally like to add rhubarb to my oatmeal while it is simmering. Adding apples or berries to the oatmeal helps sweeten the rhubarb naturally without the added sugar. You can also drizzle some honey on top of your oatmeal if desired. Here are a few healthy rhubarb recipes you can try today:
So I’m sure by now you’ve noticed that we like to eat a lot of baked oatmeals for breakfast? They’re just so easy to make and everyone seems to like them. And I love them because there really is no end to the ingredients that you can use…you can bake them with what ever is in season.
A lot of rhubarb recipes add a large amount of sugar. This keeps the sweetener to a minimum so you can enjoy the tang of the rhubarb! Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Right now my garden is bursting with ripe rhubarb, ready for the picking! The strawberries are also just beginning to ripen. I have made strawberry syrup in the past, but this morning I wanted to try something new. My experiment was a success! I created a low sugar strawberry rhubarb syrup recipe that is fresh tasting and simply delightful.
Healthy rhubarb muffins that are slightly sweet, with soft, fluffy interiors and crunchy tops. Made in one bowl, with whole grains but no refined sugar, they are a delicious snack for the whole family! Rhubarb season is upon us (finally!) and I couldn’t be happier.
Tip #7: Think outside the box and try making something savory with your rhubarb!
While traditionally used in desserts, think outside the box when cooking with rhubarb! You can try a rhubarb beef stir-fry dish, pair it with chicken, or make a rhubarb barbecue sauce that is to die for. The sky is the limit! Check out these savory rhubarb recipes:
My daughter made a trip around the world and brought home this recipe from Iran. I’ve served it often to many of my friends, and they always seem to savor its different, zingy taste. -Bertha Davis, Springfield, Missouri
This Crispy Rhubarb Lemon Chicken Bake makes an easy one pan meal! A tangy Rhubarb marinade caramelizes the chicken while baking. The lemon slices on top give it extra sweetness. A chicken bake that’s paleo friendly and super flavorful. Don’t forget the crispy rhubarb shavings on top!
This simmered sauce is a roller-coaster ride for your tongue. It’s a wonderful blend of complex flavors that goes with any meat. – Rd Stendel-Freels, Albuquerque, New Mexico Total Time Prep: 45 min.
Well there it is! 7 tips and lots of recipes to help you grow, use and cook your rhubarb! I hope this becomes a welcome addition in your home and garden! Until next time!
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