Don’t be basic and resort to rhubarb-strawberry pie when the pink celery lookalike comes in season. Try a close cousin, like a rhubarb cake recipe, a crumble, bars, compote, cocktail, or savory dish. Showcase this fruit (which is actually a vegetable) in more ways than one. This pretty, long tart piece of produce is not a one-dimensional character. Rhubarb is capable of so much more.
If you get freshly harvested rhubarb, trim and dispose the leaves — the leaves and roots are toxic with oxalic acid, a potentially deadly poison, so don’t think of it as wasting food, according to the University of Illinois Extension. Keep the stalks unwashed in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped in plastic, for up to three weeks. Only the stems are edible.
While edible, rhubarb stalks need some help to become delicious. They’re tough and stringy, so baking or cooking them is the best way to prepare them, rather than raw. The stalks are low calorie with a modest amount of potassium. The pink vegetable needs sugar or some other contrasting strong flavor. British preparations often call for spicy ginger.
1. Rhubarb Raspberry & Vanilla Mascarpone Sponge Cake
This might be one of the most heavenly ways to experience rhubarb. It’s anything but typical when it comes to this tough pink stalk. Get the recipe.
2. Rhubarb-Braised Chicken Thighs
Mouth-puckering rhubarb is just the twist your tired old chicken thigh recipe needs. Add some cardamom, ginger, honey, and shallots, and the flavor is layered and complex. Get our Rhubarb-Braised Chicken Thighs recipe.
3. Rhubarb-Almond Bars
A great treat for summer picnics, barbecues, and snacking, these bars are one of the few recipes you’ll see that don’t pair rhubarb with strawberries. See how well this tart fruit goes with almond. Get our Rhubarb-Almond Bars recipe.
4. Rhubarb Syrup
Add this simple syrup to your cocktails or iced teas to keep your summer brunch from being basic. Go seasonal. Get our Rhubarb Syrup recipe.
5. Rhubarb Muffins with Cardamom Streusel
Rhubarb has a strong sour flavor that needs a sweetness to contrast it, and cardamom in this sugary streusel topping contributes even more depth. Get our Rhubarb Muffins with Cardamom Streusel recipe.
6. Rhubarb Strawberry Compote
You want this chunky, jam-like fruity sauce that’s flexible enough to pair with so many other items. Slather this deliciousness on pound cake, biscuits, cheesecake, and ice cream. Get our Rhubarb Strawberry Compote recipes.
7. Rhubarb Custard Tea Cake
Layers of moist cake are baked with custard for a decadent dessert that’s so much more unique than a pie. Get the recipe.
— Head photo: Eat, Little Bird.
Amy Sowder is the assistant editor at Chowhound in New York City. She loves cheesy things, especially toasties and puns. She’s trying to like mushrooms. Her running habit is the excuse for her gelato passion. Or is it the other way around? Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and her blog, What Do I Eat Now. Learn more at AmySowder.com.