Welcome to the world of perennial plants. Today our guest of honor is the fabled hybrid named Rhubarb. Yes, rhubarbs are called hybrid because they possess the looks of a vegetable and taste like fruits.
Rhubarbs are a part of the Jams and Jellies industry and contribute many delicious sauces to our meals. However, they are not used as commonly at home. It wouldn't be surprising if you didn't know about them. Well, that's why this article is here for you in the first place. Let's begin with an introduction of our guest.
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What exactly are Rhubarbs?
This specific query has been challenged many times. Some say that Rhubarbs are fruits. While others say that its a vegetable.
Biologically speaking, Rhubarbs are vegetables. They are like a red version of the green celery. Rhubarbs are a species of plants belonging to the family Polygonaceae. They are herbaceous perennial plants growing from rhizomes. Rhubarbs have thick fleshy edible stalks with a crispy structure resembling that of celery. Their leaves contain a very high level of oxalic acid and are therefore inedible.
Rhubarbs are often confused with being a fruit because of their sour, tart taste. It is treated as a fruit in many culinary uses as it is being used in the production of jams, jellies, and compotes.
Where are they grown?
Rhubarbs are sturdy, healthy veggies and they can withstand a wide range of environment. Mostly they are fine when grown in temperatures between 7-25 degrees.
Above 25 degrees, their growth can get affected. Rhubarbs are widely grown in greenhouses. Such rhubarbs are termed as hothouse rhubarbs. They have a darker shade of crimson and their stalks are fleshy.
Rhubarbs got introduced to the US in almost 1930s. They are grown in many places in the US including the famous Rhubarb triangle. Rhubarbs are available throughout the year however their stocks are mostly available to the market in spring.
When are they harvested?
Rhubarbs are harvested between April and May. Though they are ripe all the time, it is best if you let the stems grow at least 10 inches long. In the case of Rhubarbs, color does not depict its flavor or its ripeness. The hothouse rhubarbs are red in color. Overall, the color can range from being crimson to pink and even light green.
What Are Their Types?
The Rhubarb plants come in many varieties. Some of the common types are listed below:
Which part of them is edible?
Now, Rhubarbs may resemble celery, but they are not edible as a whole. In fact, you should actually be careful to not consume them as a whole.
The tart-tasting stalks and leaf ribs are edible. Although they are very sour, sometimes to the point of actually being bitter. But that's only if you try it raw. The leaves, however, are poisonous. They are concentrated with oxalic acid.
Even so, you won't die if you've eaten food that had whole rhubarbs inside it. An average person would have to consume almost 5 kg of rhubarbs leaves for reaching dangerous levels of oxalic acid. Still, be safer than sorry and prefer consuming only the stalks.
How Do They Taste Like?
Rhubarbs constitute almost 90% water. Taking that factor into account, you might think that they don't have a flavor at all. But that isn't true. Rhubarbs do have a taste and a unique one at that.
Their taste is what made people confuse it with fruits in the first place. Their stalks taste like green apples. Some also explain it as being similar to tarts. Raw rhubarbs are very sour and acidic. When cooked, their taste grows sweeter, and they are more suitable for use in desserts.
Some people prefer it raw as well. Some also say that it goes really well with sugar. Others might say the same for use with salt. So, try it and find out what you prefer the most.
How do we use them as food?
Rhubarbs are a mystery veggie, and the mystery does not come to an end just yet. The can be cooked in many ways genuinely making rhubarb a-jack-of-all-trades.
Due to their sour tart taste, they are very often combined with strawberries. Strawberries and rhubarbs make a magnificent combination and are a part of many desserts, compotes, and sauces. You'll find them together quite often.
Rhubarbs are also used in pies and other sweets by adding sugar, maple syrup or other sweeteners. The sweetener is mostly important because rhubarbs can taste really sour.
So you can bake, fry, poach or simmer them while cooking. Rhubarbs go well with sweet syrups, ginger, vanilla and many fruits. Rhubarb is also a very nice flavoring agent.
What nutritional/health benefits do they have?
Rhubarbs are low on calories and are a healthy food item. In every 100 grams, they provide you with only 21 Kcal. They are low on cholesterol and saturated fats. Rhubarbs contain a large number of minerals, dietary fibers, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium and more.
They also contain a large number of vitamins. Out of these, vitamin K and C are in the most significant amounts. Vitamin K helps increase calcium deposit hence strengthening the bones and preventing osteoporosis.
Vitamin C is a natural anti-oxidant. It helps lower the blood pressure. Rhubarbs are also rich in beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, and lutein. Rhubarb can promote weight loss, and it also prevents or delays Alzheimer’s disease.
But advantages mostly come with their disadvantage-counterparts. The leaves of rhubarb contain an unusually high amount of oxalic acid which can prove fatal if taken in large amounts, especially to children.
What Use Do They Have Other Than Food?
Rhubarbs are known to be first cultivated in China somewhere around 2700 BC. At that time and till now it has been used in many medicines for the treatment of stomach and digestive problems.
Rhubarb is used as a medication for constipation, diarrhea, stomach pain and preparation of some GI (Gastrointestinal) procedures. Rhubarb is also applied to cold sores on the skin. It is said to be useful for improving the function of kidneys as well.
So now you have learned the answer to all the questions mentioned above. You know what Rhubarbs are, what do they taste like and many other additional facts about them.
Are you willing to try rhubarbs out? Check them out and tell us your story.