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All About Rhubarb

This herbaceous perennial (grows back yearly) is characterized by its long, bright red stem (stalk) with dark, leafy greens.

What is Rhubarb: Fruit or Vegetable?

Rhubarb, commonly known as the “pie plant,” is a delicious treat a majority of people look forward to harvesting. Botanically, rhubarb is a vegetable that belongs to the buckwheat family Polygonaceae, but it primarily is used as a fruit in sweet treats such as crisps, jams, jellies, muffins, pies and sauces.

This herbaceous perennial (grows back yearly) is characterized by its long, bright red stem (stalk) with dark, leafy greens. Although the leafy greens atop the stem of the rhubarb look delicious, don’t let that fool you!

The leaves contain high levels of a naturally occurring organic acid called oxalic acid. The oxalic acid level found in rhubarb leaves is high enough to make them poisonous to humans and animals. In addition to oxalic acid in the leaves, small amounts of this acid, along with malic acid, are contributing factors in rhubarb’s tart and sour flavor.

Does rhubarb have any benefits nutritionally?

Yes, absolutely! Rhubarb contains more than 40 polyphenol compounds, which includes the compound anthocyanin and lycopene, that have disease-fighting properties. Additionally, cooking the rhubarb increases the polyphenols and overall antioxidant properties.

Rhubarb is not only high in polyphenols and antioxidants, but it is a great source of many vitamins and minerals, specifically vitamin K and manganese. Rhubarb also is high in fiber and is relatively low in calories.

Research suggests that rhubarb has anti-carcinogenic effects and also may help lower blood cholesterol, reduce inflammation and blood pressure, and aid in the protection of eye and brain health.

How do I store my rhubarb?

Rhubarb is fairly easy to store. Simply cut off the leaves (poisonous) and discard them prior to washing the stems. After washing the stems, place them in plastic bags and refrigerate in your crisper. Rhubarb can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Rhubarb Fun Fact

When choosing rhubarb, be sure to choose the deep, dark red stems. The darker rhubarb stems tend to taste sweeter and have a more tender texture.



Stephanie Jensen, Program Assistant, NDSU Extension

Filed under: fca newsletter, rhubarb

Sponsored in part by the Sanford Health Foundation.

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