Are you cooking with rhubarb? If so, I've got all the tips on how to prepare, store, and bake with fresh rhubarb. You can harvest it from your own plant, or buy it, then make the most delicious rhubarb recipes.
When rhubarb season comes around, I get busy! I cook and bake whatever I can, and then prepare rhubarb to freeze so I can use it all year long.
I'll tell you how to harvest and prepare rhubarb, but also how to cook with it when it's fresh and ripe. Learn the best way to store it for weeks in the fridge.
Fruit or vegetable:
Fun fact: rhubarb is actually classified as a veggie! Even though most of us bake with it as we would a fruit.
When is rhubarb in season?
In the northern hemisphere, you can find rhubarb in season from early April to late May and into June depending on the weather. And, depending on your plant, you can harvest it through the summer!
Parts of Washington state will harvest rhubarb into July. And the southern hemisphere produces it around October and November. So if your market orders it in, you can get rhubarb throughout most of the year; it might just be expensive.
In New York City I don't have a garden, but the farmer's market carries it in the spring and I love getting a big bunch!
When I visit my family in Utah I love harvesting the red stalks from my Aunt's giant plant and my dad's two plants.
Try one of my delicious rhubarb recipes:
When and how to harvest rhubarb:
If you have a rhubarb plant that is about 2 years old or older, you can harvest stalks when they are at least 10-inches long.
Gardening Know How has a wonderful article on the details of when to harvest rhubarb and how to do it. There are a couple of ways to harvest the stalks. You can cut them with kitchen shears or a knife near the base of the stalk.
The other way is to hold the base of the stalk and turn it to one side until it snaps near the base.
I like to harvest it in the morning when it may still be cool and crisp from the night, before the sun has heated it up.
Is there a difference between red, pink and green rhubarb?
Yes and no! There are of course different varieties of rhubarb. They come with names like Hawke's Champagne, Timperley Early, and Reed’s Early Superb! There are quite a few more.
My family has no idea what variety of plant they have, but the stalks vary from red to red with a tinge of green.
There's hardly any difference in taste between red and green varieties of rhubarb; and that is just the difference, the variety of plants! And typically it is ready to harvest when the stalk is 10-inches or longer. No need to wait until it's red–it may never turn totally red!
How to prepare rhubarb after harvest, or purchase!
If the store or farmer hasn't done so already, the first thing you'll want to do is trim the leaves off the rhubarb stalks. The leaves are poisonous! Even deer don't eat them. However, the stalks are perfectly safe to eat.
Discard the leaves and trim the harvested end. Then rinse any dirt off in cold water, gently rubbing the stalk. Drip or pat dry with a clean towel or paper towel.
Using fresh rhubarb:
Prepare rhubarb to use fresh as described above. Simply wash it and cut it to the size you want for the recipe. Use it immediately.
Can you eat rhubarb raw?
You can absolutely eat rhubarb raw! In fact it's a favorite snack in the family to sprinkle the stalk with salt and eat the salty and sour bites. Of course you can sprinkle it with sugar too.
You can finely chopped the stalks and sprinkle it on top of food, add it to a salsa or macerate it in sugar.
Do you peel rhubarb?
You don't need to peel rhubarb to eat it or cook with it. It's just not necessary.
I know a very famous baker and cookbook author who discusses peeling the stringy outside from rhubarb stalks. I won't name names, because there's just no point!
Rhubarb stalks are inherently "stringy." They aren't like celery with a few strings and a tender inside. The entire stalk is made of long fibers.
To prevent stringiness, the best thing to do it cut the stalks crosswise into small pieces before cooking or eating it. That way the fibers are short and won't seem stringy.
How to store rhubarb in the fridge
To store rhubarb in the fridge just wash and pat dry, then wrap the stalks in aluminum foil and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.
If your stalks are too long to fit in your fridge, you can cut them in half and store them in a zip-top bag for up to two weeks as well. The only thing is the cut ends may split and curl! Honestly, you can use these split and curled ends, or trim them off. The rhubarb will still be crunchy and tasty.
You can freeze rhubarb!
You can absolutely freeze rhubarb and the process is incredibly easy! Just follow the steps in my Freezing Rhubarb post.
It's as simple as cutting it, freezing it in a single layer and then packing it air tight in freezer bags.
Delicious Pie and Tart Recipes
About Tara Teaspoon
I’ve been in the food publishing business for over 20 years, creating recipes & food-styling for magazines, books, television & advertising. Order my new cookbook & stick around for amazing things to eat.
Thanks. Interesting and so very informative.
Bernice Hill says
Good to know...we're in the middle of rhubarb season here right now. On Saturday I baked four different rhubarb desserts! I almost picked my rhubarb all the way down and was worried it wasn't going to come back. However, I checked today and it's already spring some new leaves!
Rhubarb is super resilient!
Paula Montenegro says
Oh I love rhubarb so much, but it's so hard to find it where I live! This post is just perfect for next time I find some. I can hoard it to use later, haha!
Maggie Unzueta says
I've never cooked with rhubarb. You make it look so easy to prepare too. Maybe I'll have to give this a try!
Megan Palmer says
I have never cooked or seen rhubarb. Thanks for the informative post!
I believe there are some parts of rhubarb that you can't eat and can make you sick. thanks for teaching us that process.
What a great resource! I pick up rhubarb every year from either the grocery store or the farmers market, but TBH just make a dessert with it and call it a day. It's fun to think about all the other options!
Love and appreciate this guide so much Tara! I can't get enough rhubarb in my life this time of year :)! Thanks for sharing!
What a great resource! I don't cook with rhubarb that often so this is really helpful. Thank you!
I do not use rhubarb enough in cooking and I love your tips and ideas to make working with it so simple and easy.
Bookmarked this post so I can refer back to it year after year when rhubarb is in season! I always see so many beautiful recipes that use rhubarb, but I honestly have never tried it because I don't know how. But having this resource (and knowing how to store it) is so helpful and makes me way more confident in cooking with rhubarb! Thank you!
This is a fantastic resource! Thank you for all this great information! I'll be referring to it every season.
We used to have a rhubarb growing on our property when I was a kid. I always loved when my Mom would have us go out and break some off for a pie. It was my favorite. Thanks for all of the info!
Erin | Dinners,Dishes and Dessert says
What a great rhubarb recipe! I have to put this on my menu!
Amanda Livesay says
Bookmarking this for rhubarb season! So many great tips.
This was super helpful for when I make a recipe with rhubarb. Thank you for these helpful tips! Never have tried freezing rhubarb, but definitely going to next time!
I have some in the freezer given to me by a friend. But I think I'd like to try growing it myself this year!
These are so useful tips, especially for freezing it. I will definitely try them!
PATRICIA A Conte says
What a great post! I didn't know about the different types of rhubarb! Such a good idea to freeze so we can enjoy this later!