Featured Vegetable: Rhubarb
Past and Present:
Rhubarb was originally grown in China. It is a perennial vegetable that today can be grown in most parts of the United States. It is not surprising that people often think of rhubarb as a fruit since it is used frequently as an ingredient in pies, tarts, sauces, jams and other sweet delights. You may have even heard it referred to as a “pie plant”.
Reach for Rhubarb:
Rhubarb looks similar to celery, only with a pinkish red color. Choose medium-size, firm stalks. Look for rhubarb with a deep red hue, as these tend to be more flavorful. Keep in mind that only the stalk should be eaten. The leaves contain toxic levels of oxalic acid and should never be consumed.1
Here are some tips to make the most of the nutritional benefits rhubarb has to offer. Rhubarb is naturally low in calories. However, sugar is frequently paired with rhubarb to offset the tart taste. Pair a sweet fruit like fresh strawberries with cooked rhubarb in place of added sugar. Strawberries also add vitamin C to replace what the rhubarb lost during the cooking process. Both cooking and heat can degrade the vitamin C content in foods.
One half cup serving of cooked rhubarb provides more than 2 grams of fiber to your day and contains calcium but note, the calcium in rhubarb is calcium oxalate, which is NOT absorbed by the body. Stick to low-fat dairy products to meet calcium needs instead.
Cooking with Rhubarb:
Rhubarb is well known for its tart taste that adds a unique flavor twist to many dishes, especially desserts! Because of this tartness, rhubarb is often paired with sweet fruits like strawberries, peaches and apples. Before cooking, trim both ends of the rhubarb stalk, trim off any bruised spots, and then cut into 1-2 inch chunks. Bake or stew until tender.
When cooking rhubarb, the right pot makes a difference! Steer clear of reactive metal pots (aluminum, iron and copper) they react with acid in the rhubarb and turn it brown. Choose anodized aluminum, stainless steel, non-stick coated aluminum or enamel-coated cast-iron cookware2.
After cooking rhubarb, many add sugar to taste. Instead, trim calories by combining the rhubarb with another sweet fruit or swap out some of the sugar in any rhubarb recipe with a non-nutritive sweetener like sucralose or stevia.
Whether you prepare dishes with rhubarb regularly or this is your first stab at it, this Campbell Chef-Inspired recipe is sure to tantalize your taste buds.
Check out this recipe from Campbell’s KitchenSM
French Toast with Rhubarb & Strawberry Fusion Compote
This creative twist on French toast is guaranteed to be a hit on any breakfast or brunch table. Served with a warm, rhubarb and strawberry compote, your guests will be begging for more!
1http://clark.wsu.edu/family/specific-foods/Rubarb.pdf . First Fruits of the Summer. Washington State University. Clark County Extension. Accessed 2/10/2013.
2http://urbanext.illinois.edu/veggies/rhubarb.cfm Watch Your Garden Grow. University of Illinois Extension. Accessed 2/10/2013.