NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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The Rhubarb is Growing

The Rhubarb is Growing

          The wet, wet weather is creating havoc with all things growing but one vegetable plant is doing well – just as it does well during dry periods.  Rhubarb is a tough perennial plant which is believed to have originated in Siberia, no doubt one of the reasons it is so resilient.  

          The Chinese were early fans of rhubarb, but more for its medicinal properties. There is record in Chinese history of rhubarb is given to the Wu emperor of the Liang dynasty (reign: 557-579) to cure his fever but only after warning him that rhubarb, being a most potent drug, must be taken with great moderation. As recent as 1828 the Daoguang-emperor sent out an edict to the effect that no more tea and rhubarb be sold to the "barbarians” outside of China.

          Rhubarb is 95% water and contains a fair source of potassium, contributes minor amounts of vitamins, and is low in sodium. Rhubarb's crisp sour stalks are rich in vitamin C and dietary fiber. Rhubarb is acidic (pH 3.1-3.2) but in most recipes rhubarb is treated as a fruit and the sour taste is offset by sugar. One cup diced rhubarb contains about 26 calories. Of course, the addition of sugar increases the calorie count.

          Though classified as a vegetable, rhubarb is known as the "pie plant" and is prized for use in pies, tarts, and sauces. One pound raw rhubarb cooked yields 3/4 cup cooked.  From the NDSU Extension publication, “Jams, Jellies and Spreads”, a jam recipe features the favorite combo of rhubarb and strawberries.

                             Rhubarb-Strawberry Jam with Pectin

1 cup cooked red-stalked rhubarb (about 1 pound rhubarb and ¼ cup water)

2½ cups crushed strawberries (about 1½ quart boxes)

6½ cups sugar

1 pouch liquid pectin

Yield: About 7 or 8 half-pint jars

          Wash rhubarb and slice thin or chop; do not peel. Add water, cover and simmer until rhubarb is tender (about one minute). Sort and wash fully ripe strawberries: remove stems and caps. Crush berries.

          Measure prepared rhubarb and strawberries into a kettle. Add sugar and stir well. Place on high heat and, stirring constantly, quickly bring to a full boil with bubbles over the entire surface. Boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in pectin. Skim. Fill hot jam immediately into hot, sterile jars, leaving ¼-inch head space. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust the lids and process jars in a boiling water-bath canner for 5 minutes at altitudes of 0-1,000 ft. and for ten minutes for altitudes of 1,001-6,000 ft.

          And from a reader of this column, a variation of a Scandinavian favorite – pudding with fruit.


                                      Rhubarb Tapioca Pudding


          3 cups diced rhubarb

          2 cups boiling water

          1 ¾ sugar

          ¼ tsp. salt

          ½ C. quick cooking tapioca

          2 T. grated orange rind


          Add rhubarb to boiling water; reduce heat and cook for approximately 15 minutes or until rhubarb is tender. Add sugar, tapioca and orange rind. Cook on medium heat until thickened.  If desired top with whipped topping or use a topping on ice cream.

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