Long before peaches are in season, long before we’re enjoying baskets of plump blueberries, and yes, even before we can pick glossy red strawberries, one ‘fruit’ makes its appearance before any other – rhubarb.
Rhubarb is one of the first crops to welcome in spring as winter is on its way out.
And what a welcome it is with its showy red stalks and large green leaves. The tart tang and colorful pink dishes you can make with rhubarb make it a welcome addition to any table after a long winter of heavy food.
Rhubarb is technically a vegetable, but because of its flavor, it’s often used in sweet, fruity desserts.
This perennial shows up faithfully every year in many gardens and does best in areas with colder winters. It’s easy to grow and provides a harvest of crunchy, tangy stalks for about a month and a half every spring.
You can harvest rhubarb when the stalks are over 12” long, but always be sure to leave a few stalks behind so the plant will continue to grow and come back next year.
It’s important to note that only the stalk is edible. The leaves of rhubarb are poisonous, so cut the leaves from the plant after harvesting.
Rhubarb is one of those vegetables that often leaves people scratching their heads and wondering what to do with it. Pie seems to be the most common answer to that question. Strawberry-rhubarb pie being a universal favorite.
But I wanted to bring you something different.
Rhubarb has such a unique flavor and texture; it deserves more than just getting lumped in with strawberries in the same old boring pie.
I scoured the internet to find some truly great recipes for your rhubarb crop this year – and I actually tried them out!
With sweet and savory flavors alike, I think you’ll find a new love for this pink vegetable. And yes, I’ve included a pie recipe, but not your average strawberry-rhubarb.
1. Rhubarb Salsa
I honestly didn’t know what to expect with this recipe. Rhubarb salsa? But as an avid chip and salsa lover, I knew I had to give it a try.
The tartness of rhubarb combined with the honey and the heat from the jalapeno make this salsa unforgettable. There is so much flavor going on in every bite.
And the recipe even has an option for a gut-friendly probiotic version. Save some whey from your next batch of yogurt and use it to ferment the salsa.
A couple of notes about this recipe: it calls for 1 – 2 jalapenos. I used one in my first batch, and it was okay, but my next batch, I used two jalapenos, and it made a huge difference in the flavor. The salsa had a better balance of heat and sweet.
Also, the directions state to throw everything in the food processor and pulse it. I put everything in except the rhubarb and pulsed it a few times, then added the rhubarb once the mixture had a texture I liked. This gave a better, slightly chunkier salsa. Rhubarb is soft once it’s cooked. I knew if I blended it all together at the same time it would just be mush, and I wanted to maintain some of the chunks of rhubarb.
2. Skillet Rhubarb Crisp
Look, pie is great and all, but you’ve got to love the crunchy topping of a good crisp made with sweet fruit. And rhubarb is an excellent candidate for a fruit crisp. What surprised me was the addition of a crispy bottom to this recipe.
Bake it all up in a castiron skillet and serve it warm with an overly generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Jennifer of Seasons and Suppers has converted me on the crispy bottomed fruit crisp, and I’ll never go back to plain old fruit crisp again.
I followed this recipe to a T and didn’t make any changes; it came out perfect.
3. Rhubarb and Greek Yogurt Popsicles
Oh my goodness, these were delicious and so easy to make. I immediately ate both of the popsicles in the photograph as soon as I finished taking pictures of them. And I don’t regret it one bit.
The smooth, creaminess of the yogurt matches up perfectly with the tart fruitiness of the jam. And the best part is you could easily make the rhubarb jam called for in the recipe (it takes about five minutes) and freeze it to make these treats all summer long.
If you want a creamier popsicle, be sure to use full-fat yogurt and heavy cream. If you’re looking for more of that icy popsicle texture, use non-fat yogurt and half-and-half. Both are fantastic, but the full-fat ones are downright decadent!
4. Roasted Rhubarb
It seems as though rhubarb gets lumped into the dessert category all too often. I wanted to take this vegetable out of fruit territory and create something savory with it.
With a little messing around (and a few flops), I came up with this easy and delicious roasted rhubarb dish.
The maple syrup helps to tone down the tartness while adding a smokiness to it. The fresh thyme brings a warmness to the dish. You can easily serve this as a side dish, or it would be equally good on top of pork chops or with chicken.
- 4-6 rhubarb stalks
- 2 tablespoons of butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon of maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves (or ½ teaspoon of dried)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat your oven to 400F. Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan.
- Wash and dry your rhubarb stalks and then cut them into 3-4” long pieces.
- In a medium-sized bowl, toss the rhubarb pieces with the melted butter and maple syrup.
- Lay the coated pieces on the sheet pan, making sure they are not touching one another.
- Sprinkle the thyme over the rhubarb.
- Bake on the highest rack of your oven for 12-15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
5. Rhubarb Chutney
This chutney is beyond incredible. It’s warm and spicy flavors pair so well with the tartness of the rhubarb. The acidity of the apple cider vinegar gives it a little extra bite, and altogether it blends into a chutney that is excellent served hot or cold.
Spread on crackers with ricotta as I did here for a delicious summer addition to any cheese or charcuterie board. Use it as a glaze on a pork tenderloin or baked salmon.
Be sure you have a jar of this ready for all of your summer picnics and barbecues. I’m considering making a batch to preserve and tuck into gift baskets for Christmas presents this year.
The recipe calls for you to crush the fennel seed lightly, I used the back of a soup spoon, and it worked beautifully.
6. Rhubarb Lemonade
This recipe completely took me by surprise. Pink lemonade is pink lemonade, right? Wrong. I am never going back to boring old regular pink lemonade.
The color of the rhubarb lemonade is simply gorgeous, and the flavor is so much more refreshing. You get that classic sweet-tart combo that makes a good glass of lemonade. But the taste is more well-rounded and less likely to make you pucker.
Because you are essentially making a rhubarb lemonade syrup that you add water to, you could easily make a couple of batches to freeze so you can enjoy this pretty pink treat all summer long. Serve with lots of ice and a sprig of fresh mint.
7. Barb’s Rhubarb Custard Pie
This recipe is rather special, as it was my mother’s recipe. Mom kind of ruined rhubarb pie for us as a family. No matter who served it, rhubarb pie anywhere else was never as good as mom’s.
For the longest time, I could not figure out why mom’s recipe tasted so different than other rhubarb pie I had. I would order rhubarb pie expecting it to be like mom’s and then be disappointed because there were strawberries in it, and it wasn’t creamy. It wasn’t until I started cooking that I realized it was because mom’s was a custard pie.
Of course, I love a good strawberry rhubarb pie these days. But my mom’s rhubarb custard pie will always be my favorite. And I hope it becomes a favorite of yours too.
The custardy base cuts some of the sweetness that you find in most rhubarb pie recipes. The overall pie is light and creamy with just enough of that tart goodness shining through. Good luck eating only one slice.
- 2 crusts for 9” pies (I love this pie crust recipe)
- 4 cups of rhubarb, chopped into 1” pieces
- 4 eggs
- 1 ½ cups of sugar
- ¼ cup of flour
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Dash of salt
- 2 tablespoons of butter cut into 8 pieces
- Preheat oven to 400F. Place the bottom crust in the pie dish and pour the rhubarb into the prepared crust.
- In a medium-sized bowl, beat the eggs until smooth. In a small bowl, gently whisk together all of the dry ingredients. Slowly beat the dry ingredients into the eggs until smooth and creamy. Pour the egg mixture over the rhubarb in the pie dish. Dot the top of the pie mixture with the butter pieces.
- Place the top pie crust or lattice top on the top of the pie. If you are using a full pie crust for the top, be sure to cut several vents into the top of the pie.
- Bake for 50 minutes. Allow the pie to cool completely before eating. Refrigerate the remainder.
I hope the next time you find yourself with a bumper crop of rhubarb, these recipes give you inspiration for what to make with it.
Who knows, maybe after trying a few of them you’ll be looking for space to plant more rhubarb in your garden. I know I could use more pie and lemonade in my life. Especially when it’s pretty in pink.