In Season: Rhubarb

By Meghan Rabbitt

It got the nickname “pie plant” thanks to its mouthwatering pie pairing with strawberries, but rhubarb is actually a more versatile veggie than that. And there’s good reason to experiment with rhubarb beyond the pie plate: Studies show that rhubarb has anticancer properties and can even help lower blood pressure. One serving (1/2 cup diced) contains a mere 15 calories, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 1 gram of protein, and plenty of calcium and vitamins A and C.

Since rhubarb is almost unbearably tart on its own, add agave, honey, or fruit juice to reduce the pucker factor a bit, says Grace Avila, a San Francisco–based chef and nutrition consultant, who suggests these out-of-the-pie rhubarb recipes:

Rhubarb-blueberry vinaigrette (perfect on a spinach and goat cheese salad)
In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup chopped rhubarb, 1 cup blueberries, 1 large chopped shallot, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1/3 cup red wine vinegar. Simmer for 10 minutes, and let cool. Then add 3/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard, and blend well.
Rhubarb salsa (serve over chicken or fish)
Cook 1/2 cup honey, 1/4 cup water, 6 cups of finely chopped rhubarb, and 1 tablespoon orange zest until rhubarb is soft. Let cool, then add 1/2 cup diced green pepper, 1/4 cup finely chopped tomato, 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion, 1/4 cup finely chopped white onion, 1 finely chopped jalapeno, 1 tsp grated ginger, 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic, and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Persian rhubarb stew
Sauté 1?1/2 pounds of lamb and 1 chopped onion in olive oil; add salt and pepper to taste. Add 1 pound finely chopped rhubarb, 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley, 1/4 cup finely chopped mint, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, a pinch of saffron dissolved in 1/4 cup of water, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, and 2 cups of water. Simmer slowly until lamb falls apart (about 2 hours). Add more water if needed. Serve over rice.