Eat Seasonally in May: Cooking With Rhubarb

Each month, we feature a seasonal ingredient. Learn more about rhubarb -- growing it, selecting and preparing it, as well as cooking with rhubarb.

Rhubarb: Either you love it, or you hate it. Or perhaps you’ve never even tried it. Regardless of how you may feel about rhubarb, it’s currently in season. That means it’s time to learn more about this vegetable — growing it, selecting and preparing it, as well as cooking with rhubarb. You might find you like it pretty well after all.

Cooking With Rhubarb: A Sweet-Tart Perennial Vegetable

If you live in a place where the winters are on the colder side, chances are you can grow your own rhubarb. When the winter temperatures dip below 40°F, it prompts new growth. Rhubarb is a perennial that comes back year after year, and it’s also drought-tolerant, making it a good choice for novice gardeners.

The bright red stalks are the edible part of rhubarb, and they’re loaded with nutrients. The leaves are poisonous, so don’t try putting them in a salad. Cut them off, trim the base of the stalk, and chop the rhubarb into small pieces, as you would with celery.

Cooking With Rhubarb: The bright red stalks are the edible part of rhubarb, and they're loaded with nutrients. Cut off the leaves, trim the base of the stalk, and chop the rhubarb into small pieces, as you would with celery.

Rhubarb can be used right away or stored in the refrigerator for a couple weeks. You can also freeze it. Pop the small pieces into a freezer bag — no further prep needed.

The flavor of the stalks is quite tart. That’s why cooking with rhubarb often entails adding sugar. You can adjust the amount of sugar based on your preference for tartness.

Cooking With Rhubarb: Ruby Rhubarb Syrup

We’re starting with this recipe from A Farm Girl’s Dabbles because it’s an easy and versatile way to dip a toe into cooking with rhubarb.

This gorgeous syrup contains no artificial colors. That’s pure rhubarb goodness. If you can make simple syrup, this recipe will be a breeze. Plus, you can use it as a topping for pancakes, waffles, and ice cream, or add it to drinks like mojitos, margaritas, and even lemonade. For a simple strawberry-rhubarb combo that isn’t pie, macerate some strawberries in this syrup. Delicious!

Cooking With Rhubarb: Charred Rhubarb Waffles

We’re big fans of making waffles a special breakfast treat, from the Maple, Bacon, and Butternut Squash Waffles we featured last fall, to the Dark Chocolate Waffles we recommended for Valentine’s Day. These Charred Rhubarb Waffles from Tasting Table are another recipe to add to your breakfast lineup.

Instead of making both charred rhubarb for the waffle batter and poached rhubarb for the topping, try using the rhubarb syrup above as the topping. A little homemade whipped cream would also go nicely with these waffles.

Cooking With Rhubarb: Rhubarb Crisp

We love this recipe found on The Spruce because it calls for two layers of crisp — one on top, and one on the bottom. If you prefer a single layer, just halve the crisp ingredients. (Or send the rest of your crisp to us; we’ll happily eat it.) Likewise, if a full cup of sugar makes the filling too sweet for your tastes, scale it back a bit.

Scroll to the bottom of the recipe to see several variations you might also try. Combine rhubarb with strawberries or apples, or use juice to make the filling. If you make it once and love it, you can easily double the recipe using a 13×9-inch baking dish.

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