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Rhubarb: Delicious, Nutritious ... and for More Than Just Pie!

Most people only think about rhubarb in terms of pies, crisps or crumbles, but there is much more to rhubarb than dessert.

This hardy, sour plant (rhubarb isn't exactly a fruit or a vegetable -- it's the stem of a perennial plant) originated in Eastern Europe where it was enjoyed by the Germanics and has been used for medicinal purposes by the Chinese since 2700 B.C., according to the Washington Rhubarb Growers Association.


Once it's planted, rhubarb will come back year after year for a decade or more.

Rhubarb, which once grew along the banks of the ancient Volga River, literally means "barbarians of the Volga River," and is also another word for a serious disagreement.

But there's no need to fret over this unique edible plant ... it's healthy, tasty and incredibly easy to cook with (and grow!).

Rhubarb: The Nutritional Up and Comer

When it comes to health, rhubarb can spar with the best of them, rivaling blueberries and pomegranates for sheer nutrient power.

In the UK, celebrity chefs have popularized this ancient plant, making it one of the most "fashionable" foods to eat -- and driving up sales by the double-digits.

Why? Aside from its delightfully unique flavor, rhubarb is packed with fiber, vitamin C, calcium and potassium and is very low in calories (100 grams has just seven calories). Historically, rhubarb was used to treat intestinal problems and today has been touted as a remedy for high cholesterol and hot flashes.


When enjoying rhubarb, eat only the stalk -- the leaves are poisonous!

Just be sure you are enjoying the stalk of the plant -- NOT the leaves. Rhubarb leaves are quite poisonous, and if eaten can cause weakness, vomiting, difficulty breathing, eye and stomach pain, diarrhea, coma, seizures, red-colored urine, kidney stones and burning in the mouth and throat. If you have accidentally eaten leaves from a rhubarb plant, get help immediately.

How to Grow Rhubarb

Rhubarb is a perennial plant, which means that if you plant it once, it will come back year after year for a decade or more. Though it can be grown in all climates, rhubarb does best in areas that have at least a couple of cold months, and where the ground freezes over in the winter.

Plant the rhubarb roots (they're rarely grown from seed) in early spring, about three feet apart and in an area that you won't need to disturb. Rhubarb likes sunny spots (but can tolerate some shade) and well-drained soil. Keep it watered during the growing season and you'll have tasty rhubarb right in your own backyard (but wait to harvest the stalks until the second year to make sure the plant is established).

What to do with all that rhubarb? Try these delicious and healthy treats.

Sugar-Free Rhubarb Pie


  • 4 cups diced, raw rhubarb
  • 2 cups diced peeled sweet apples, such as golden delicious
  • 1/3 cup apple juice concentrate
  • 1/4 cup unbleached flour
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange rind


  1. Line a pie pan with pie dough.
  2. Stir the rhubarb and diced apples together and arrange them on top of the pie shell.
  3. Combine the remaining ingredients and sprinkle them over the fruit.
  4. Dot with 2 tablespoons butter (optional).
  5. Cover the pie with well-pricked pie dough or with a lattice.
  6. Bake the pie in a 450-degree oven for 10 minutes.
  7. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy!

Rhubarb Spice Pancakes


  • 2 cups of your favorite pancake batter
  • 3/4 cup finely diced rhubarb
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger


  1. Add above ingredients to your pancake batter.
  2. Cook batter on a hot skillet and serve with yogurt, maple syrup or your favorite fresh fruit, jam or jelly.

Recipes from

Recommended Reading

Ode to the Guava, the World's Healthiest Fruit

The Power of the Pomegranate: The 9 Health Benefits of this Wonder Fruit, and How to Eat Them


Menopause. 13(5):744-759, September/October 2006.

Washington Rhubarb Growers Association

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