Most notably used in baked goods and in jams and jellies, rhubarb is a classic spring food that signifies warmer days and barbecuing out on the lawn. While its season is relatively short (it’s at its peak from April through June in the Northern hemisphere), rhubarb’s distinct taste makes it a standout staple in farmer’s markets and grocery stores alike.
While most people consider rhubarb to be a fruit (it was even “declared” a fruit in 1947 in a New York court), it’s actually classified as a vegetable, and only the stems of the plant can be eaten (the leaves are actually quite poisonous).
History Of Rhubarb
Rhubarb is said to have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years, most notably as a natural laxative. Imported on the Silk Road, rhubarb reached Europe in the 14th century, and because of growing medical demand, was more expensive than other precious plants and spices like cinnamon and opium.
Reportedly, rhubarb reached the US in the 1820s, and Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, was a fan, planting it in his gardens.
These days, rhubarb is grown in both heated greenhouses and outdoors, and is one of the first crops harvested in the spring.
Health Benefits of Rhubarb
In addition to a long history as a natural constipation aid (because of its high fiber content), rhubarb contains a pigment called parietin, which has been shown in a few scientific studies to be a potent cancer fighter.
When it comes to vegan sources of calcium, rhubarb is a great bet. About 3.5oz of rhubarb contains nine percent of the daily recommended amount of calcium, and 5g of fiber.
Rhubarb is also high in vitamin K (which is essential for strong bones), vitamin C, iron and manganese.
The Taste of Rhubarb
Rhubarb is often described as crunchy and extremely tart. Even though it’s not usually eaten raw, some countries serve the raw stalk covered in sugar as a snack.
It’s traditionally served with strawberries or other sweet fruits in pie form.
Where To Buy Rhubarb
Rhubarb usually pops up in grocery stores and farmer’s markets in late spring. Because its season is so short, cutting it up and freezing it for later use is a great idea!
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Smoothie Recipes With Rhubarb
Because we’re such fans of this healthy spring food, we often include it in smoothies. Here are a few of our favorite rhubarb recipes.
Lavender Plum Refresh
Low in sugar but high in fiber and potassium, fresh plums are a sweet treat that are only in season for a few months during the summer. In this version of a pie-in-a-glass, we’ve also included rhubarb for an additional dose of fiber and vitamins C and K, and cantaloupe for beta-carotene. Both hemp seeds (full of protein and anti-inflammatory Omega-3s) and lavender are great at promoting a calm, relaxed state, and collard greens — one of the only vegetables with protein — puts the “green” in this green smoothie, as well as calcium and iron.
Rhubarb is a source of vitamin K, which plays a role in brain health and function. Vitamin K also stimulates bone growth and repair. Strawberries possess a phytochemical called ellagic acid, which can prevent collagen destruction and inflammatory response—two major factors in the development of wrinkles! Cashews, banana, and lucuma powder blend together to add a creamy consistency and nutty flavor.
Rhubarb: it’s not just for pies! Though the cinnamon, apple, and hemp protein make this smoothie rich and filling. The plant contains stilbenoid compounds which may help lower blood glucose levels. Swiss chard could pass for rhubarb’s twin—and both contain high amounts of B vitamins, choline, and vitamins C, E, and K. Orange and apple partner up to help boost your immune system, and add plenty of fiber. Yum!
Raspberry Rhubarb Coconut Spritzer
This refreshing spritzer is light and sweet, with a diverse mix of summertime flavors. Like all berries, raspberries bring a handful of antioxidants in a tart little fruit. Coconut isn't just good for the heart; the tropical fruit (not technically a nut but a “fibrous one-seeded drupe”) helps moisturize with the help of medium-chain fatty acids. Rhubarb and cantaloupe are classic flavors of summer, and maqui berry has antiviral properties that benefit all parts of the body.
Creamy Orange Rhubarb
Nothing says spring like carrots (beta carotene, fiber and vitamin A) and rhubarb (fiber, vitamin C and magnesium). When you combine them with healthy fat and protein from almonds and coconut milk, a blast of vitamin C from an orange, and natural sugars, calcium, zinc and riboflavin from maple syrup, you have a sweet, bright drink that tastes like a dessert but loves your body like a health food.
Classic Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Rhubarb, which is actually a vegetable but often used in sweet dishes, is very nutrient-dense, packed with fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A and magnesium. It’s also very low in calories. Strawberries are full of fiber and vitamin C too, as well as a helpful serving of iodine. Add in some lucuma, which is a natural sweetener (with more fiber!), cashews (full of healthy fat and protein), and a banana (potassium, fiber and vitamin A), and you’ve got yourself the perfect way to satisfy those dessert cravings.
Ginger Rhubarb Cider
It may not be one of the flashiest superfoods out there, but apple cider vinegar (ACV) has some pretty amazing properties. Studies have linked consumption of apple cider vinegar to improved insulin sensitivity (great for people watching their sugar intake), as well as weight loss. Ginger is a great natural anti-inflammatory, and when it’s combined with ACV and lemon, creates an alkalizing, germ-vanquishing smoothie that basically high fives your immune system. Add in an apple and rhubarb for fiber, swiss chard for vitamins A, K and C, and walnuts for healthy fats, and you’ll be radiating from the inside out.
Rhubarb pies might be popping up at barbecues right now, but this smoothie has all the flavor with none of the fat or white sugar! Full of antioxidants, fiber and iron, acai berries are also big on vitamin C. An orange gives an additional boost of skin-brightening C, and rhubarb rates high on vitamin C as well, along with fiber and calcium. Walnuts provide healthy fat and protein as well as vitamin E, another great vitamin for skin. Drink this, glow from the inside out!
Cherry Rhubarb Pie
Cherry season is short -- May through July -- so now is the time to eat as many of these healthy fruits as possible! Full of fiber, vitamin C, melatonin and antioxidants, cherries also contain anti-inflammatory compounds that help achy joints and overworked muscles. Maqui berries have more antioxidants than almost any other fruit, and the fiber in oats add depth to this light, refreshing smoothie. Very low in calories but high in fiber and vitamins K and C, rhubarb is a summer smoothie staple that helps keep your mind healthy (vitamin K is especially helpful to the brain) and your stomach satisfied.
Orange Rhubarb Protein
Full of fiber, vitamin K and calcium (but not a lot of calories), rhubarb is the perfect summer vegetable (yes, it’s actually classified as a vegetable!) to thicken your smoothies. Bursting with beta carotene, fiber and vitamin C, sweet carrots pair wonderfully with an orange, which is also infused with immune-boosting vitamin C. A nice dose of vegan pea protein helps to make this low calorie, low sugar smoothie a great meal replacement or snack -- keeping you refreshed and full for hours!
Rhubarb (which many believe is a fruit but is actually classified as a vegetable) is a warm weather staple, and is full of fiber, vitamin K and calcium. Combining its slightly tangy taste with a lime (vitamin C), pear (fiber) and cantaloupe (magnesium and B vitamins) results in a sweet/tart smoothie base. Chia seeds and swiss chard add even more vitamins, fiber and healthy fats, which means that this light drink will help keep you energized and satisfied all day long.