How to Eat Rhubarb: Leaves and Petioles

How to Eat Rhubarb: Leaves and Petioles

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Rhubarb is an amazing plant that has a number of beneficial properties. But, despite the fact that this culture has long been grown in Europe, for many it remains an undeservedly ignored exotic.

What is rhubarb and what does it look like

The history of rhubarb dates back to ancient China. There healers used it for thousands of years as a medicine for diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and urinary tract, with its help they also treated skin diseases and various inflammations. In the XIII century. rhubarb was brought to Europe, where they also tried to create medicines on its basis. It did not work to repeat the success of Chinese healers, however, in the 16th century. the culture has gained wide popularity due to its gastronomic properties. In the XVII century. she came to the territory of present-day Russia, where she took root well. Today this useful plant has not been forgotten and is successfully used in cooking, medicine and even landscape design.

Nevertheless, many ordinary people have little idea of ​​the external appearance of this plant, often believing that rhubarb and celery are one and the same culture. In fact, this is not the case. Rhubarb belongs to the Buckwheat family and is a perennial herb that, unlike celery, belongs to the Umbrella biennial crops. It stands out for its straight and thick stems, reaching a height of 1 - 2.5 with a diameter of 2 to 5 cm. Their surface has a rich crimson color, turning into a light green color. Each stem has 10 - 30 large fleshy leaves on long, up to 70 cm, petioles. The size of the leaf plates increases towards the base of the plant.

The flowers of the plant are excellent honey plants. Their color varies, depending on the variety, and can be white, greenish, less often pinkish or bright red. Separately, the flowers are not very remarkable, but in inflorescences that resemble shreds of sea foam, they look quite impressive. The photo above clearly shows what rhubarb looks like during flowering.

Rhubarb: is it a fruit or vegetable

Since this plant is often used in cooking for the preparation of a variety of confectionery products, it is not surprising that it is often confused with a fruit. But in reality, rhubarb can be considered a dessert vegetable, along with asparagus and artichoke.

What is the taste and smell of rhubarb

Although nominally a vegetable, rhubarb is highly regarded by desserts and fruit drink makers for its unobtrusive sour taste, comparable to that of green apples and strawberries. This plant fully reveals its gastronomic properties in combination with sweet dishes.

The smell of rhubarb is also remarkable. It has an unusual tart scent, reminiscent of the scent of roses, interspersed with berry notes. This exotic combination has made rhubarb a popular ingredient in perfumery as well.

How rhubarb grows

In addition to the extraordinary taste and medicinal properties of the plant petioles shown in the photo, it is worth mentioning how rhubarb grows. It is classified as a shade-tolerant plant that does not need a lot of light, although it grows somewhat more slowly with strong shading. In the same area, the culture can grow up to 15 years, however, after 10 years of life, it begins to produce smaller volumes of harvest, therefore, after this period, the plant is recommended to be renewed.

In comparison with other vegetable crops, the main method of propagation of rhubarb in horticulture is the division of the rhizome. The root system of the plant is very powerful and is able to quickly recover from damage, growing even more extensively. Seed propagation is also applicable to this crop, but not as successfully as division. The seeds of the plant sprout already at 2 ° C, but the optimum temperature for development is from 10 to 20 ° C.

Proper watering will help to ensure a good crop yield. The plant prefers moderately moist soil, but grows poorly in places where groundwater runs close to the surface. Excess moisture negatively affects the state of the root system, provokes rotting. In turn, lack of water affects the delicate texture and taste of the petioles, making them hard and bitter.

Where rhubarb grows in Russia

In addition to its country of origin, China, rhubarb, both wild and cultivated, is widespread in other Asian countries. In some areas of Europe, in particular in England, as well as in the United States, it is bred for industrial purposes. In Russia, rhubarb also grows quite successfully. Due to its high frost resistance, it is not afraid of cold temperatures down to -30 ° C, which makes this plant suitable for growing not only in the climate of the middle zone, but also in Siberia.

How rhubarb is eaten

Although rhubarb is a rich source of vitamins and minerals, you can only get the most out of it if you eat it right. Not all parts of rhubarb are suitable for food: only the juicy and long petioles of the leaves of the plant are considered edible, as in the photo.

Important! The stem, roots and large fleshy leaves of the plant are poisonous to humans due to the high content of toxic substances and oxalic acid. It is strongly discouraged to eat them.

Rhubarb stalks can be eaten raw, after peeling them of the shiny rind. In addition, they can be boiled, fried, and candied. Finely chopped rhubarb stalks are traditionally added

  • in salads;
  • sauces for meat and fish;
  • borscht and other soups;
  • stuffing stuffing;
  • desserts and pastries;
  • ice cream.

From these parts of the plant are also obtained:

  • kvass, compotes and other refreshing drinks;
  • wine;
  • jam and jam;
  • candied fruit;
  • mousses;
  • jelly.

Advice! Heat treatment of rhubarb should take no more than 7 - 10 minutes, otherwise the plant loses its shape and boils down.

When to eat rhubarb

Rhubarb is a unique plant of its kind, as it yields already at the end of May, when most crops are just beginning to bloom. In order for rhubarb to bring only benefits, and the harm from its use was minimized, you need to learn how to properly collect its edible parts:

  1. When choosing petioles, they should be carefully examined. Ripe soft stems are considered to be at least 20 - 30 cm long and not more than 80 cm long. They should be 1.5 - 3 cm wide.
  2. The petiole must never be torn off. You can separate it from the plant if you gently take it at the base and slowly pull it up, twisting it clockwise. The mature part of the plant will easily fall behind the stem by itself. If difficulties arise, the petiole is cut off with a sharp knife.
  3. Absolutely all the leaves cannot be cut off from rhubarb at a time, otherwise the plant will die. You should put 3 - 4 leaf plates so that the culture can recover next year.
  4. The crop must be harvested every 15 to 20 days, from late May to mid-July. Starting from the second half of July, the plant accumulates in all its parts, including the stalks, a large amount of concentrated oxalic acid, which is dangerous to health.
  5. It is necessary to limit the flowering of rhubarb during harvest. During the budding period, the plant actively accumulates substances that are toxic to humans. Removing the peduncles by mid-July will increase the time to collect the petioles.
  6. From the collected leaves, you need to remove the leaf plate, rinse the petioles, and then remove the peel from them. In this form, rhubarb can be eaten immediately or processed.

Important! Raw rhubarb is not recommended for children under 12 years old and people with diseases of the pancreas and stomach. It is better to serve it as part of dishes or thermally processed.

Can rhubarb leaves be eaten

In addition to the petioles, young rhubarb leaves can also be used as food. Delicate leaf plates are used in the manufacture of spices and various sauces, such as chutneys. However, many doctors recommend refraining from consuming them, as they contain toxic oxalic acid salts that cannot be eliminated at home.

What is made from rhubarb

As mentioned above, the petioles of the plant have established themselves as a tasty and healthy ingredient for various desserts: from puddings and jellies to marmalade and pies. They are appreciated in the manufacture of seaming, preserves, jams and compotes, and for such dishes they use the most juicy petioles from 2.5 to 3 cm thick. Savory dishes such as salads, stews, vegetable purees and pickles also go well with this culture.

But the use of rhubarb is not limited to culinary alone. The laxative and anti-inflammatory properties of the medicinal varieties of the plant have found application in traditional medicine, where, based on its root, drugs are produced that help to cope with indigestion, for example, Radirex.

Rhubarb root extract has proven to be useful in cosmetology as well - as a component of various creams and face masks. He did not go unnoticed in the field of perfumery.


Rhubarb is a healthy tasting plant that is often underestimated. Its qualities are especially evident in cooking, due to its almost universal purpose. Knowing the rules for collecting and using this culture, you can not only diversify your menu, but also enrich your diet with many vitamins and other nutrients.

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