Originating from Asia, rhubarb has been used as an ingredient in Chinese medicine since time immemorial. Yet it is only more recently, from the 17th century that rhubarb has become part of the everyday diet. However its acidity can sometimes take people by surprise. This why rhubarb is generally eaten either sweetened in the form of jams, compotes and a wide range of desserts, or in savoury dishes to add flavour to vegetables, fish dishes or sauces. The main rhubarb season in France is April/May, although it can sometimes be found into July. Only the stems are edible. Its leaves do contain oxalic acid which can be toxic at certain levels.
Low in calories (15 kcal per 100 g), rhubarb stems are rich in fiber, vitamin K, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium and vitamin C. Rhubarb stems are more than 70% fiber! This is why rhubarb (eaten as a compote for example) has the reputation of being a laxative.
Rhubarb can be kept in the freezer in its natural state or after being prepared (blanched, compote, ice-cream). Fresh, it should be kept in the refrigerator and eaten as rapidly as possible after purchase to take full advantage of its nutritional benefits. Raw, cut into small sticks, like celery, or finely chopped and added to a fruit salad. Cooked and sweetened, in compote or as jam. To alleviate the acidity without incorporating too much sweetening, try mixing rhubarb with apples, pears, peaches, red fruits, etc. Cooked in savoury dishes: try adding rhubarb to any of your curry or spicy stew recipes, cook it as you would prepare a sorrel sauce, add it to chutney, or to spice up a seasoning (a special French dressing for example). In reality each time you use lemon, ginger, sorrel or orange in the kitchen, you could replace it with rhubarb.
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