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Promoting Rhubarb

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rhubarb

Cool Stuff About Rhubarb!

Did you know that in 2008, the Minnesota Legislative recognized Lanesboro as the Rhubarb Capitol of Minnesota? Rhubarb's nickname is the "pie plant" because that is the primary use for this vegetable. Even though Minnesotans are fond of making pies, jams, jellies, and other sweet treats it was first used by the Chinese about 4,700 years ago for medicinal purposes. The dried root was used to cause vomiting, cure constipation and as a blood purifier. People did not start eating the rhubarb stalks until the early 1800's, probably because those people who first tried rhubarb leaves got sick and died. Rhubarb leaves can be poisonous because they contain a substance called oxalate. NEVER eat the leaves cooked or raw!

The color of rhubarb stalks will determine the taste. Green stalks with green flesh are very sour and are good for jams and jellies. Red stalks with green flesh are slightly tangy and less sour; they are good for cake fillings or cookie fillings. Red stalks with red flesh have a sweeter flavor or a slight raspberry flavor. This variety is good in fruit salads, or fruit tarts or pies. Generally, the deeper the red color, the sweeter the rhubarb will be! You can pick some up with your family at the local farmer’s market or FARM NAME. Try using the recipe in this month’s newsletter. Today at lunch, you will have the opportunity to sample rhubarb in FOOD ITEM from FARM NAME/CITY.

rhubarb

In [MONTH] your child tried [FOOD ITEM] with locally grown rhubarb from [FARM NAME] in [CITY]. Prepare this delicious recipe with your family and ask your child(ren) if they can answer the following trivia questions.

  1. In 2008, what city did the Minnesota Legislature declare the Rhubarb Capitol of Minnesota?
  2. Even though rhubarb's nickname today is the "pie plant," it was first cultivated by the Chinese about 4,700 years ago for medicinal purposes. Name one way the Chinese used rhubarb.
  3. People did not start eating the rhubarb stalks until the early 1800's, probably because those people who first tried rhubarb ______ , got sick and died! A) flowers B) leaves C) stalks.

Trivia Answers

  1. Lanesboro. The Annual Rhubarb Festival takes place in early June.
  2. The dried root was a popular remedy for a wide range of illnesses. Its primary function was to cause vomiting. Rhubarb has been used to cure fevers, to cure constipation and as a blood purifier.
  3. B) Leaves. Rhubarb leaves can be poisonous because they contain a substance called oxalate. NEVER eat the leaves cooked or raw! Rhubarb stalks are what we use to make pies, jams, jellies, and other sweet treats. The color of rhubarb stalks will determine the taste. Green stalks are sour where as deeper red stalks are sweeter.

MS Word version of Newsletter

rhubarb

History and Origin

  • The word rhubarb probably originally comes from the Greek words "Rha" and "barbaron." "Rha" is a 3000-year-old name for the Volga River in present-day Ukraine. Rhubarb grew along its banks. "Barbaron" means "foreigner" or "barbarian." Together, the word "rhabarbaron" meant roughly, "Plant of the barbarians along the Volga River."
  • Rhubarb thrives in cold climates and originated in Western China, Tibet, Mongolia, and Siberia. The Chinese were cultivating rhubarb as early as 2700 BC for medicinal purposes.
  • The dried root was a popular remedy for a wide range of illnesses. Its primary function was to cause vomiting. Rhubarb has been used to cure fevers, to cure constipation and as a blood purifier.
  • Rhubarb is a relative of buckwheat and has an earthy, sour flavor.
  • In 1542, rhubarb sold for ten times the price of cinnamon in France and in 1657 rhubarb sold for over twice the price of opium in England.
  • A planting of rhubarb was recorded in Italy in 1608, and was recorded as a food plant in other part of Europe in 1778. The earliest known usage of this beautiful plant as a food appeared as a filling for tarts and pies.
  • Use of rhubarb stalks as a food was not widespread until the early 1800's, probably because those who first tried the toxic leaves sickened and died, thereby decreasing rhubarb's popularity!

Nutrition

  • Rhubarb contains about 25 calories per cup, is fat free and has about two grams of fiber per cup. It also contains Vitamins C and A, and around 100 milligrams of calcium per cup.
  • Rhubarb also contains potassium and is low in sodium.

Did you know…?

  • Rhubarb is a perennial plant that grows from year to year from "crowns" made up of large, fleshy rhizomes and buds. It has large leaves that are toxic, and long, thick petioles (stalks). The stalks are tasty if cooked with a sweetener.
  • Botanically speaking, rhubarb is considered a vegetable, but it's most often treated as a fruit — though it's rarely eaten raw. Just like fresh cranberries, rhubarb is almost unbearably tart on its own and needs the sweetness of sugar, honey, or fruit juice added to it to balance out the acidity.
  • Rhubarb's nickname is the "pie plant" because that is the primary use for this vegetable.
  • Never eat cooked or raw rhubarb leaves. Eating the leaves can be poisonous because they contain oxalate. This toxin has been reported to cause poisoning when large quantities of are ingested. (A person weighing about 145 pounds would have to eat 11 pounds of leaves to cause death, but can get sick on a much smaller quantity)
  • Different colors of stalks will determine the taste. Green stalks with green flesh have the highest acid content and are particularly sour. Green stalk varieties are mainly suitable for jams and jellies. Red stalks with green flesh are less sour and have a slight tangy, sweeter flavor. Red stalk varieties are good as filling for cake, pie, tart or cookies or cut up in fruit salads.
  • For good growth rhubarb requires moist, cool summers and winters severe enough to freeze the ground to a depth of several inches.

How to Eat Rhubarb:

  • Add rhubarb to your favorite pie or fruit bread recipe.
  • Add cooked rhubarb into a fruit topping for poultry.
  • Top frozen yogurt with berries and cut-up rhubarb for a tangy twist.
  • Use for jams, jellies, syrups, bread puddings, crisps and cobblers - add something sweet to tame the mouth-puckering tartness of rhubarb.
  • Rhubarb is a great match with strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, apples, oranges, peaches, apricots, pears and raisins. Its flavor is enhanced by ginger, cinnamon, orange, lime and mint. Mix all of these wonderful items together and enjoy a terrific fresh fruit salad.

The above information was compiled from:

clark.wsu.edu/family/specific-foods/Rubarb.pdf [document no longer active]
urbanext.illinois.edu/veggies/rhubarb1.html
www.foodreference.com/html/artrhubarb.html
www.rhubarbinfo.com/
aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu
www.kitchenproject.com
www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/r/rhubar14.html
www.nutritiondata.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/2056/2
http://www.jjdst.com/produce/?Keywords=rhubarb&display=search&newSearch=true&noCache=1 
www.rhubarbfestival.org/rhubarb-reading-run.php

rhubarb

Tasting Poster (87 K PDF)

Table Top Trifold (179 K PDF)

Index Card (93 K PDF)

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rhubarb bag

Bag of Rhubarb

photo by Kent Lorentzen
Grand Rapids Farmers' Market
closeup of rhubarb

Rhubarb Stalks

photo by Kent Lorentzen
Grand Rapids Farmers' Market
rhubarb plant

Rhubarb Plant

photo by ?
bundles of rhubarb

Bundles of Rhubarb

photo by Kent Lorentzen
Grand Rapids Farmers' Market
rhubarb stalks

More Rhubarb Bundles

photo by Kent Lorentzen
Grand Rapids Farmers' Market
 
rhubarb
  • Rhubarb Crafts
  • How to Grow RhubarbYouTube video
  • Rates and RhubarbNuffield Foundation — This junior high or high school chemistry lab project experiment can be used to show how the rate of reaction is affected by surface area or concentration. The oxalic acid in rhubarb stalks is used to reduce and decolorize potassium manganate(VII) solution.
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