In the Field

The Scoop on Rhubarb

By: The Local Palate

Call it nature’s Sour Patch Kid

The puckery perennial starts popping up in early spring but doesn’t hit its stride until April when the stalk’s signature tang is most pronounced.

At the Market

Vibrant ruby-red stalks are rhubarb’s calling card, but color isn’t an indication of flavor (some heirloom varieties even lean green at their peak). Look for firm stalks that aren’t too large, which tend to be stringy.

Store and Prep

Ditch the leaves: The showy foliage is pretty, but poisonous. Keep stalks unwashed in your fridge’s crisper for to up to two weeks, or chop and freeze in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Use frozen rhubarb directly in recipes without thawing.

Potential Partners

Strawberry brings yin to rhubarb’s yang, but rhubarb is open to other partnerships—and they don’t have to swing sweet. Think orange, vanilla, and ginger. And savory treatments aren’t strangers either.

It’s Not Just for Pies

Pour a liter of vodka—not the good stuff—over a couple cups of chopped rhubarb and 1 cup of sugar. Let sit for a month, strain, and voilà: rhubarb hooch.

Slice 3 stalks of rhubarb, toss with sugar, and fold into your favorite scone recipe.

Dissolve 1 part sugar into 2 parts apple cider vinegar over low heat, then pour over sliced rhubarb for quick pickles.

Use it in: 

Gingery Rhubarb Compote
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine 3 cups roughly chopped rhubarb, ½ cup sugar, and 1 tablespoon water. Bring to a gentle boil, then lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger and let cool on stovetop.

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