Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for Rhubarb: Yummy Fruits A-Z

Fudging a bit here, because technically rhubarb is a vegetable, but here in the U.S. most of us know it as a fruit. I always have. Have you? 

We have a New York court decision in 1947 to thank for the confusion. They ruled that since all of us were using rhubarb as a fruit anyway, the designation should be changed. (I'm guessing there was also some monetary motivation). So although rhubarb is technically a vegetable, for all tariff and regulation purposes it is "officially" a fruit.

Rhubarb is grown all over the world, often in hothouses, which has increased its availability. Hothouse rhubarb also tends to be sweeter and more tender. Other areas can grow rhubarb year round. The Chinese have been growing rhubarb for thousands of years. There it was commonly used for medical purposes. Medieval Europeans and Arabs also used rhubarb in this way.

The leaves are quite toxic. During World War II, British citizens were ill-advised they could eat these leaves, and there were reported fatalities. On the other hand, the stalks are rich in vitamin C and dietary fiber. But other vitamin and mineral content is small, since stalks average 95% water.  

I happen to like rhubarb, but with all the added sugar we need to enjoy this (very tart) fruit, it might make sense to use a sugar substitute like Stevia or Splenda to sweeten. Nevertheless, the health claims are impressive: anti-cancer properties; aiding indigestion; lowering blood pressure; diminishing hot flashes; lowering high cholesterol; and anti- oxidant, inflammatory, and allergy properties.

Rhubarb Recipes

"Rhubarb Custard Pie"

3 cups rhubarb, cut up
1 pie shell, unbaked

2 egg yolks, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 egg whites, beaten stiff
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons sugar

Fill pie shell with cut rhubarb. Mix together all custard ingredients and pour over rhubarb. Bake at 425 degrees F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake until rhubarb is tender.

For meringue, add sugar and salt to stiff egg whites, Blend with beater. When custard is set, spread meringue around edge of pie and return to oven for 12 to 15 minutes to brown lightly.

  • I also found this Icelandic recipe online for rhubarb jam. Have never had one for jam. (It works with other recipes, too).

"Rhubarb Jam"

rhubarb (6 oz.), cut into small pieces
granulated sugar (6 oz.)

In medium sauce pan, bring sugar and rhubarb to a boil over medium high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until rhubarb falls apart and is pureed. Transfer to bowl and cool. 

Rhubarb Jokes:

Q: "What kind of socks do you need to plant rhubarb?"

A: "Garden hose!"

Q: "Have you heard the one about the rhubarb who robbed a shop?"

A: "He got taken into custardy!"

Rhubarb Books

--Rhubarb by M.H. Van Keuren
(2012) (Sci-Fi)

--The Joy of Rhubarb: The 
Versatile Summer Delight 
by Theresa Millang (nonfiction) (2004)

--Rhubarb by Craig Silvey (2004) (fiction)

--Rhubarb (1946) (fiction)
by A. Allen Smith and Leo Herschfield 

--Rhubarb in the Catbird Seat  
by Red Barber and Robert W. Creamer (nonfiction) (story of baseball radio voice Red Barber) (1997)

Rhubarb Movie

--Rhubarb the Millionaire Cat (1951)
(Comedy; A rich eccentric dies and leaves inheritance to a feral cat)

Rhubarb Song

"Rhubarb Pie" by John Fogerty (2007)




  1. I never knew rhubarb could be considered a fruit! I've always just known it as a vegetable...

    1. Hi Heather! The 'confusion' story about this vegetable/fruit was a surprise to me too.

  2. Hi Sharon - I love rhubarb - it came to the UK from Russia - centuries ago .. so it's well travelled. I just stew it gently, or poach it .. but I'd add sugar and not use the chemical sugar alternatives!

    It's good as jam too .. or served as the fruit in an upside-down cake .. or rhubarb crumble - in other words it's a favourite for me .. cheers Hilary

    1. Actually, I'm hesitant about using anything other than the real thing, but my friend with diabetes swears by stevia, so thought I would mention. Have never tried the jam, so I'm anxious to try....but cakes, pies, etc.....all so good :)

  3. Growing up we had a rhubarb plant in the backyard. I remember taking a stalk and dipping it straight into a bowl of sugar to eat. Unfortunately it doesn't grow where I live now.

    1. My way of eating rhubarb too from the garden as a girl. Loved this fruit!

  4. Love Rhubarb. When I was little we would take a stalk and place sugar on it and eat it. I wonder if it still would be tasty like that. My mom in law made a great rhubarb pie and never used as much sugar as was called for and it tasted great

    1. Me, too....and I'm sure it would still be tasty. I was surprised that hothouse rhubarb is considered sweeter. Mine from the garden are quite sour.

  5. Rhubarb custard pie is so much better than rhubarb pie. Yum.

    1. Yes, I agree! I'm really curious about that jam though.

  6. We grow rhubarb and love it, too. It's a very easy plant for us. In fact, we have to thin it or face having it take over the entire garden.

    1. I had trouble growing it at my last home, but it loves the soil where I live now. It seems to be spreading like yours :)

  7. Since it's used for pie, it should be a fruit... But wait. Don't they also make sweet potato pie? An whatever...

  8. I always thought it was a vegetable; didn't realize it was classified as a fruit. All I know is I keep saying I'm going to try rhubarb pie and I never do; might have to do it now!


    1. Oh, please do, Betty....and let me know what you think!!

  9. Thanks so much for sharing our rhubarb jam recipe! You have a fantastic blog which we now follow !


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