Rhubarb: Four Book Reviews, by S.A.

When I was a child in elementary school, I always felt cheated when the cafeteria served rhubarb pie masquerading as cherry pie for dessert.

Long time gardeners know all about rhubarb, but I’ve encountered a fair number of young people who tell me that they’ve never tasted rhubarb.

However, from a survival perspective, rhubarb is a perennial worth considering. You could grow it in a a front yard flowerbed and it’s doubtful the homeowner’s association (HOA) would recognize it. It’s easy to grow, nutritious, stealthy, forgiving (last year I transplanted plants from one bed to another in early Texas summer, and it flourished), and it will come back year after year. But what does one do with rhubarb? Rhubarb is one of those plants that is a vegetable but is usually treated in cooking as a fruit. If the food ever runs out, rhubarb can be depended on whether fresh or preserved.

Just so you know, the tartness of rhubarb calls for one cup of white sugar in many of the recipes. Dieters and diabetics be warned.

This is my combined review of four rhubarb books. Two of them are full cookbooks, and the other two are brief, but are “all things rhubarb.” Enjoy!

101 Recipes with Rhubarb
published by CQ Publishing, 2013
$4.50 with Amazon Prime

This tiny, spiral cookbook measures 3×5, the size of a small index card. No author, recipes only, but hey, it’s rhubarb.

The hundred recipes includes lots of muffins, cakes, and breads, made with various common fruit combinations. But I like the Rhubarb Rolls made with only 4 ingredients, one of which is refrigerated cinnamon rolls. I see no reason not to spread the white, sugary icing that comes with the raw refrigerated rolls on top, after the muffins are baked. Now that would be tasty.

Sections are divided into Breads, Muffins, and Coffee Cakes; Main Dishes, Salads, and Sides; Sauces, Salsas, and Soups; Cookies and Bars; Preserves and Condiments; and Beverages.

From a survivalist perspective, this cookbook shows how to combine rhubarb with just about anything: navy beans, beef cubes, chicken, fish, numerous fruits, and how to make cold soup, pickles, custards, salads, and of course, rhubarb pie.

The surprise in this little book is the final recipe: Rhubarb Gin.

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GREAT RHUBARB RECIPES
A Storey Country Wisdom Bulletin
by Nancy C. Ralston and
Marynor Jordan
2001, 32 pages
$3.95 with Amazon Prime

If you are not familiar with Storey Bulletins, you might already have one or two larger Storey Guides on Chickens or Rabbits on your library shelf. The bulletins provide useful and succinct information for the homesteader.

DO NOT EAT THE LEAVES, only the stalks.

A nice introduction to the history of rhubarb, how to grow rhubarb, using rhubarb, and “rhubarb math,” that is how many stalks to the cup and pound. I particularly like the strong admonition to only use non-reactive pans, or your rhubarb will turn an ugly brown.

The humor in this little Storey publication shows the dependability of rhubarb: “Nothing retards rhubarb; it could get out of a straight jacket.”

Interesting recipes include fritters, jello salad, relish, cakes, cobbler, compote, flan, mincemeat, and ice cream, plus the expected pies and breads.

I found the most useful chapter to be Jams, Preserves, and Conserves because I’m into food preservation. For those new to canning, there is a page on the Basics of Water Bath Canning and Jelly Tests.

So what’s new in my kitchen? I’m planning to make Rhubarb Chutney this year from this little recipe book.

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5 POPULAR PERENNIAL VEGETABLES
Globe Artichoke, Crosnes, Asparagus, Sunchokes, and Rhubarb
by Roby Jose Ciju
2013, 107 pages
$6, free shipping for Amazon Prime members

Perennials are defined by these qualities “…grow for several years without compromising on their economic value.“ And they produce “…(an) edible portion that can be used as a vegetable continuously for several years.”

“5 Perennials” is not a cookbook. Rather, it’s all things rhubarb, plus four other vegetables.

Subtitles include Uses; Growing Practices; Harvesting; Post Harvest Management, and charts on Diseases; Insect Pests; Nutrition in Raw Rhubarb Leaf Stalks;
Nutrition in Raw Wild Rhubarb Leaf Stalks; Nutrition in Frozen Cooked with Sugar Rhubarb Leaf Stalks; and Nutrition in Frozen Uncooked Rhubarb Leaf Stalks.

As you can see, this little book has much information for use as a reference tool. The other 4 vegetables have equal amounts of in-depth information.

Finally, find a spot in the garden for some rhubarb crowns and expect them to multiply over the years. Red and green stalks each have their own properties to recommend them. And you can always add red food color to green stalks if you like bright red. Just warn your guests they are not getting cherry pie, despite how the pie looks.

By the way, have you ever heard of Crosnes? That is the Chinese Artichoke.

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RHUBARB, THE PIE PLANT
by Roby Jose Ciju
2013, 25 pages
$2 on Amazon + shipping

This little booklet provides much of the information as the previous book, same author. The nutrition charts are repeated.

There are little nuggets of rhubarb knowledge such as a “rhubarb plantation” can last 12-15 years, rhubarb loves moisture, rhubarb is a heavy feeder and frost resistant, and how to plant and harvest.

Did you know that rhubarb has uses in traditional Chinese medicine?

“Rhubarb, The Pie Plant” can help demystify how to grow this perennial for home gardeners.

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Enjoy your rhubarb! – S.A.




9 Comments

  1. I love rhubarb! Thanks for reviewing these publications. We have 2 baby patches of rhubarb that were just planted last year. Luckily we have good friends who are keeping us supplied until ours is mature enough to be picked.

    Does anyone else remember having sword fights with stalks of rhubarb as a kid?

  2. I use and like rhubarb from my mom’s patch, it seems like it is sweeter and not as corrosive as others I have used. I need to look at a couple of these books. There are several varieties and the one the homesteaders had was mostly the green kind. It was used to make a spring tonic that was taken on a regular basis through the winter. I have tried it at several old homesteads where it has run wild for years. I’m not sure there is enough sugar to make it palatable.

  3. If you have a concern about cooking rhubarb and adding sugar, you can use Monk Fruit sweetener which is diabetic-friendly. It is sold at Costco, among other places.

  4. I wish we were having the “invincibleness” of the rhubarb. About 3 years ago, it was flourishing, and all of a sudden, it died, right when we were ready for harvest. Now, it’s struggling to come back slowly.

    This didn’t happen in our garden only, but in several gardens, separated by miles.

    We like to make “rhubarb-aid,” juicing the raw stalks, sweetening with some honey and stevia, and freezing the juice. We also dehydrate the stalks and powder them for a “lemon” substitute. And, store the dried chunks for re-constituting.

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