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Red-green, sweet and sour, and perfect for cakes and desserts
Rhubarb is the highlight of the garden in spring and particularly well-loved in sweet dishes. Its slightly bitter taste also goes well with savoury dishes.
Botanically speaking, rhubarb is actually a vegetable even though its flavour is reminiscent of apple and lemon, which leads some to believe it’s a fruit. In addition, it’s often treated much like a fruit since it’s a delicacy featured in many sweet cakes and creamy desserts. The combination of rhubarb with ripe strawberries or vanilla and cream is a real classic, but rhubarb can do much more besides this. For example, its gentle acidity creates a pleasant contrast to the heartiness of pork, and it can bring sophistication to muesli when dried and seasoned with cinnamon.
|Calories||12 kcal per 100g|
|Nutrients||1.0g carbohydrate, 2.5g fibre, 0.1g fat, 0.6g protein per 100g|
|Storage||refrigerator, in a damp cloth|
|Shelf life||1 week|
The first rhubarb plants likely originated in Tibet or Mongolia. Today, this vegetable is locally cultivated and can be found fresh during the rhubarb season from spring to early summer. The low calorie, tart-tasting plant owes its name to the Ancient Romans. “Rhubarb” is derived from Latin, meaning “root of the barbarians”.
Incidentally, this name is in one sense inaccurate: the red-green part of the plant suitable for consumption isn’t the root, but the leaf stalks – which contain vitamin C. Rhubarb therefore not only enriches your dessert with nuances of flavour, but also with important nutrients.
For all varieties of rhubarb, the redder it is, the sweeter the taste. Those who prefer sourer rhubarb should therefore look out for stalks that are much greener. Regardless of the colour, you can identify fresh rhubarb by the firmness and light gloss of its stalk.
Like asparagus, rhubarb is best stored in the fridge and wrapped in a damp cloth, and can be kept for up to a week before cooking. If the stems are tender, it’s often sufficient to wash with cold water and cut a little off the ends.
However, fibrous and very hard stalks should be peeled by loosening the skin at the end with a knife, then peeling it off in one piece. This can be a little tricky, but it’s important to remove all the stringy fibrous pieces.
The rhubarb can then be chopped and used, or frozen for the off-season. When stored in the freezer, it will keep until the following year’s rhubarb season. This way, you can have it at hand for recipes the whole year round. But no matter whether you want to use it immediately or store it, rhubarb should always be cooked before serving, as it is overly sour and difficult to digest when raw.
Those who have never cooked with rhubarb before may not be sure where to start with this fruit-like vegetable. Thankfully, though, it’s a relatively straightforward ingredient. Rhubarb compote, for example, is a classic dish which only requires a saucepan, a hob, some sugar and a little vanilla. Put the rhubarb in the saucepan, sprinkle it with the sugar until it’s completely covered, and wait an hour until the sugar has drawn the water from the rhubarb. Then add the vanilla and cook it over a low heat until the rhubarb is soft.
Once slightly cooled, the flavoured rhubarb tastes great with vanilla ice cream or pudding, or as a porridge topping. You can also get a little more creative and add some cinnamon or grated ginger to the compote instead of vanilla. Once you experience how easy it is to prepare rhubarb, you’ll soon discover a wealth of tasty recipes for rhubarb cake, and perhaps it may even become your new favourite secret ingredient for savoury sauces.
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