Still on the fence about rhubarb? It’s understandable. The ruby-hued stalks you spy at the market and grocery store this time of year may be pretty, but aren’t they just like celery?
Nope. The plant was nicknamed “pie plant” by early American colonists, who awarded it that moniker because it was just so suited to baking. The vegetable so often treated like a fruit is tart, yes, but it takes very kindly to sugar and other sweeteners. (And boy howdy, does it love strawberry.) Though you might occasionally spy it in savory treatments like sauces for a duck dish, you’ll most often see it in pies and tarts, where its tartness is mellowed and its texture delightful. Bonus: It’s just packed with calcium.
If you’re ready to give rhubarb a whirl or already love it, make sure you’re discarding its toxic leaves. Look for heavy, crisp stalks with taut, shiny skin, and avoid dry, fibrous, rubbery stalks. Store the stalks wrapped loosely in aluminum foil in the refrigerator, all the better to prevent the gas it emits (called ethylene) from over-ripening it. It should stay for up to two weeks, refrigerated, this way. (Once chopped, you can also freeze it!)
Here are five of our favorite rhubarb recipes (“rhubipes”?) to try right now.
Those of us who adore pork know it can be fatty as all get out. It’s delicious, yes, but it’s important to have something bright, tart or acidic to cut through the fat. These grilled double-cut pork chops come with a rhubarb mostarda that’s just the thing. Sparkling with ginger, garlic, red wine vinegar, sugar and mustard, it’s savory and sweet at once, putting rhubarb’s tart quality to its best use.
Mother’s Day is Sunday, folks, but brown butter pound cake is forever. Make it to impress Mom (or whip up these homemade gifts). Revel in the aroma brown butter contributes to your home. Steal secret spoonfuls of this strawberry-rhubarb compote later, when everyone is asleep, over vanilla ice cream. You deserve it.
Doesn’t the look of this tart say it all? North Carolina chef Katie Button dreamt this one up. The crust utilizes zero white flour, just sorghum flour and rice flour, so it’s gluten-free. (Mascarpone is one of the secret ingredients binding the crust and keeping it unctuous.) On top, layer strawberries and rhubarb, that most beloved spring duo, with a float of mascarpone whipped cream. It’s like a buoyant wedding dress in tart form.
Need something even more dramatic? Pavlova is your gal. Baked meringue topped with rhubarb-strawberry compote and crème anglaise (instead of the more traditional whipped cream) is simply ethereal. It’s the sort of knockout dessert you could serve after an evening of burgers, grilled chicken or even delivery pizza and elevate the whole evening. (We’d suggest Moscato d’Asti, Riesling or a Brut Champagne to sip alongside.)
Grunts, slumps, sonkers and pandowdies: It’s not an SNL sketch; it’s a fruit dessert. This pandowdy is decidedly not dowdy thanks to the filling’s crimson sheen. It comprises rhubarb and raspberry, yet another sweet fruit that melds beautifully with rhubarb’s tartness. The best part? This dessert is ready in well under an hour, so you can give rhubarb a try without spending too much time on it.