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Rhubarb, what it is and what it is used for

22 mayo, 2021

If you like to make pastries, the name of rhubarb is surely familiar to you, as it frequently appears as an ingredient in British and Central European dessert recipes. But even being known, it is easy that you have never seen or tried it, since here in Spain at the moment it is difficult to find in greengrocers. Today we are going to know a little more about this fruit-vegetable, rhubarb, its origin, its conservation, as well as its uses in gastronomy.

The ambiguity about its classification is due to the fact that rhubarb is botanically a vegetable but in the 1940s it was designated in the United States as a fruit and has been considered that way until now. Of the, only the stem is edible, similar to that of celery and composed of bright green and red colors. Its roots and leaves contain oxalic acid in large quantities, being this toxic, so they should not be consumed in any preparation.

The origin of rhubarb is Asian, there it was used exclusively for medicinal purposes but later it was introduced in Great Britain and the United States, where it was fully integrated into their gastronomic culture. taking part in a multitude of dishes especially pastry.

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In the United States it is frequently used in the elaboration of famous pie cakes, but also in jams and marmalades, as its acid flavor makes it combine perfectly with generous amounts of sugar. The British use it with ginger to enhance its flavor and it is often paired with oranges and other fruits. In addition, its harvest time coincides with that of the strawberry, so it is common to see it in conjunction with this fruit, especially in baked crumbles.

Rhubarb pie and strawberries

But rhubarb is not only used in confectionery, in salty preparations We will also find it in many recipes according to the cuisine of each country. In France, it is generally used for the preparation of sauces that accompany fish, but also as a garnish on pork and duck meat. In Norway it is typical to prepare a rhubarb soup and in Poland it is accompanied by potatoes flavored with herbs. Italians use it to make a low alcoholic aperitif, rabarbaro, considered a healthy drink with medicinal properties.

But his job in the kitchen goes beyond European borders. Thus, in the East and more specifically in Iran, rhubarb is used to prepare khorest, a very typical stew of Persian cuisine and in Afghanistan it is usual to use it combined in a dish with cooked spinach.

Conservation methods

The truth is that it turns out hard to find fresh rhubarb for sale in Spain. Some specialized greengrocers bring it in its short harvest season, towards spring, but it is not a product that is easily found. I have only seen it in some supermarkets in our country of English or German origin, in quite touristy areas and not fresh, but in syrup. So being a product so scarce and difficult to get hold of it, the most convenient thing is the day we buy it, to get a good quantity and opt for freezing.

To do this, wash the stems well and dry them. With a vegetable peeler remove the brown and flaky parts of the stems, remembering to discard the roots and leaves. Cut the stems into two or three centimeter pieces, spread them out on a tray and freeze them on contact, that is, uncovered in the freezer for a while. Once frozen, bag them tightly closed and keep them for a maximum of six months.

Another issue to take into account is that if the recipe tells you to cook the rhubarb, as it is quite acidic, it is important to do it in non-reactive material pots such as anodized aluminum, stainless steel or containers coated with Teflon, since if the cooking is carried out in copper, aluminum, or iron pots, the stems would turn an unappetizing color in addition to causing brown spots in the pot.

Rhubarb plantation

I hope that rhubarb is no longer a stranger to you from now on and if you have been curious to try it, do not stop looking for it in the best greengrocers because now is the time Or else, what do you think about planting it yourself in a small urban garden? Given the difficulty of finding it, this year I have opted for this second option.

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