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9 Ways to Preserve and Use Rhubarb

Rhubarb, that early rising perennial that you can completely ignore and know it will keep coming back in garden zones 3 to 8. With such a prolific producer, the more ways to preserve and use rhubarb you know the better!

image of rhubarb stalks

Rhubarb is so tart, it is usually mixed with berries and/ or lots of sugar and used in desserts, but it really has so many more uses! Harvest and you’ll have enough rhubarb to preserve it for the whole year.

Rhubarb Season

Rhubarb is a perennial plant which means it comes back year after year. Rhubarb season is early to mid-spring through early summer. In the US, rhubarb season is usually around April through July.

The season is short, but rhubarb plants are prolific which makes them great for preserving. You can also eat rhubarb fresh as part of your seasonal eating menu.

rhubarb stalks at farmers market

Where to Buy Rhubarb

You can buy rhubarb at the Farmer’s market if it grows in your area. Rhubarb can also be found in the produce section of some grocery stores.

When buying rhubarb choose stems that are smaller and red, instead of stems that are large and have a green tinge to them. The smaller stems will be more tender and sweeter – not that any rhubarb stem would be considered sweet, they are just sweeter than the larger stems.

If you can’t find fresh rhubarb you might be able to find frozen rhubarb in the frozen section of the grocery store.

Eating Raw Rhubarb

Yes, you can even eat rhubarb raw….just remember that it’s quite tart. However, dipped in sugar or another sweetener it makes a tasty snack.

rhubarb stalks being prepared for eating

How to Prepare Rhubarb for Preserving

When people talk about eating rhubarb they are talking about eating just the rib or stem of the rhubarb plant. Not the green leaf. The leaves are toxic and can cause all kinds of trouble for you. You can learn about the toxicity of rhubarb leaves in the article from Oregon State University.

Here’s how to prepare rhubarb for eating…

  1. Remove the green leafy part from the stem and discard (do not feed this to chickens or other livestock, compost instead)
  2. Cut the end of stems off and compost them
  3. Remove any brown spots or tough strings with a vegetable peeler or knife
  4. Rinse the rhubarb stalks in cold water
  5. Slice the stalks crosswise into 1-2″ sections. Rhubarb cooks down quite a bit so usually isn’t cut into super small pieces

Ways to Preserve and Use Rhubarb

Jams and Butter

While straight Rhubarb Jam is delicious, there are so many more varieties to make! How about out this easy method of making Crockpot Rhubarb and Strawberry Butter! Prefer straight rhubarb? Check out this Rhubarb Butter

As always, make sure to use safe canning procedures.

Syrups

A Rhubarb Simple Syrup is a great way to add flavor to baked goods, yogurt, kombucha, or thicken up a sweetened rhubarb juice to make a syrup for pancakes and waffles!

Sauces

Sweet rhubarb sauces are delicious on ice cream or cheesecake, but how about this Spicy Rhubarb Sauce? Add it to your oatmeal or even in a barbecue sauce! Be sure to add a Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce to your summer pantry too!

Juice

There are a couple methods of making “rhubarb juice.” One is to boil pieces of rhubarb in water with some sugar to extract the flavor and to sweeten it. Another is to simply put it through a juicer in 4 to 5 inch long pieces. Due to its fibrous nature, you’ll have to clean out the juicer blades after four or five stalks. I’ve heard that cutting rhubarb into 1-inch pieces and then freezing it first will give you more yield when you then put it through a juicer. Choose which method works for you.

image of cut rhubarb stalks in bowl

Wine

Delve into the world of homemade wine and you’ll always have a well-stocked wine cellar (cause we know we all want one of those!) It may take some time, but this sweet fruity wine is well worth it.

Fermented

Fermenting food has been a preservation method around the world for years, and people are again realizing it’s amazing gut health benefits. Add Fermented Rhubarb to that list and you can eat it right from the jar or make a probiotic lemonade with it!

Ice Cream

Rhubarb Ice Cream. Need I say more? Yum!

Freeze It

Freezing rhubarb is one of the easiest ways to preserve it. Here’s how…

  1. Remove the leaves and prepare the rhubarb stems as mentioned above
  2. Cut the rhubarb stems into bite size pieces
  3. Fill a quart size freezer bag
  4. Squeeze all the air out and close the bag
  5. Label the bag with the contents and date
  6. Put the bag in the freezer

You can also use a vacuum sealer to freeze rhubarb, which will keep it fresher than using ziplock bags.

Use frozen rhubarb within a year.

Thaw later to make pies, crumbles, muffins, juice, and more. Some people prefer to blanch it for one minute in boiling water to help preserve the color and then freeze it.

Canning

Canning rhubarb is extremely easy. Make a Stewed Rhubarb and can it up to enjoy during the cold winters.

rhubarb stalks on cutting board

Rhubarb Recipes for Preserving and Eating

Thanks for sharing!

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Joseph Deighan

Tuesday 2nd of July 2019

This is my third year growing rhubarb,love the plant. I read the information on harvesting it and am wondering how thin can it be to harvest? I have stalks that are 12-14 inches long but only as wide as a drinking straw, should I harvest these or leave them

Amanda

Wednesday 3rd of July 2019

Are they completely red? For me it would depend on what they’re being used for. Canning, cooking down, sure- you’ll just need more. For pies and such, I prefer to use at least 1” thick stalks.

Cristina

Monday 20th of May 2019

When using frozen rhubarb should I put it in a strainer or thaw it in a bowl using all the juices? Then when making a pie add extra flour?

Amanda Idlewild

Tuesday 21st of May 2019

If it ends up with a lot of liquid, I would set some of it aside and definitely try adding a bit of flour. Personally, I love adding rhubarb juice to my lemonade!

Lori Wagley

Monday 6th of May 2019

Can this be made using a sugar substitute to make it diabetic friendly?

Kathie Lapcevic

Monday 6th of May 2019

You can often use Splenda in canning recipes if that's what you're seeking: https://nchfp.uga.edu/questions/FAQ_general.html

Star

Wednesday 1st of May 2019

I LOVE rhubarb and I am so excited to make rhubarb syrup. I never thought of this but I love the idea. I always have more than we can eat.

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