Rhubarb may be a vegetable botanically, but it makes great jams and preserves, tasty sauces and many desserts. Rhubarb combines well with strawberries and other spring fruits. Classic rhubarb desserts include crisps, cobblers and pies.
Rhubarb grows well in USDA plant zones 3 – 8 as a perennial receiving full sun. It is a cool-season crop. Botanically, it is a vegetable, but used as a fruit. It is also ornamental as a graceful, large plant in the garden.
For many families, one rhubarb plant is adequate. Some rhubarb varieties can be started from seed, but the most common method of growing rhubarb is by dividing plants. Harvest rhubarb when the stalks reach full length, usually 12 inches up to 24 inches, depending on the variety.
Harvest by grasping stalk near the base, twisting and pulling firmly. Do not cut the stalks; the cut edge can allow access for insects and diseases. Cut the leaf off to help keep the stalk from wilting quickly. Discard the leaf; they can be toxic if eaten by children and animals. Stop harvesting rhubarb the end of June to allow plants to store enough energy to survive another winter. Remove seed stalks as they emerge.
By itself, rhubarb is only 26 calories per cup. Unfortunately, almost no one can eat rhubarb with no sugar! It is also a good source of fiber and Vitamins A, C and K.
How to Freeze Rhubarb
The quick, easy method for freezing rhubarb is to wash the stalks, cut in 1 inch pieces. Place in freezer bags in the amount needed for favorite recipes. Use within 6 months.
Serve this sauce as a tart, delicious topping for hot or cold cereal, ice cream, custard and more.
- Wash rhubarb stalks. Cut into 1 inch pieces. Measure 4 cups.
- Heat ¾ to 1 cup sugar and ½ cup water to boiling, stir to dissolve sugar.
- Add rhubarb. Simmer about 10 minutes or until rhubarb is tender.
- Cool. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.
Vary the amount of sugar according to the tartness of the rhubarb and personal tastes.
Rhubarb Freezer Jam Recipe
- Place 6 cups fresh or frozen rhubarb cut in 1 inch pieces in large saucepan. If using fresh rhubarb, add ¼ cup water. Do not add water to frozen rhubarb. Only add more water if pan is dry.
- Stir in 3 cups sugar
- Bring to a boil. Boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in one 3 ounce package strawberry gelatin.
- Pour into sterilized freezer safe jars or plastic containers, leaving ½ inch at top. Close tightly. Allow to cool, freeze. Use within 3 months.
Rhubarb – Strawberry – Orange Conserve
- 1 large orange, finely chopped
- Peel of the orange, finely chopped
- 3 cups rhubarb cut in 1/4 inch pieces (measure after cutting)
- 3 cups strawberries, crushed (measure after crushed)
- 1 cup water
- 5 cups sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup raisins
- ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
- Put the orange and peel and water in a large saucepan, cook until peel is tender.
- Add the rhubarb and strawberries to the pan.
- Stir in the sugar, salt and raisins. Bring to a boil. Boil, stirring often until mixture begins to thicken.
- Add nuts, cook about 5 more minutes.
- Sterilize 7 jelly or half-pint jars and screw bands, keep hot. Sterilize clean jars and bands by placing in boiling water, keep hot. Remove from water as ready to use. Put lids in a small saucepan, cover with water. Simmer to 180 degrees; keep hot until ready to use.
- Pour hot jam into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace at the top. Wipe the top of the jar; carefully add a lid then the screwband.
- Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath to seal the jars.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Be sure the pot has enough room to cover the jars with 1 to 2 inches of boiling water. If not using a canner kettle, put a wire rack in the bottom of the pot to keep the jars off the bottom to allow heat circulation. Bring the water to a boil. Add the jars, making sure they cannot tip over by either using a wire divider or adding empty jars to keep the jam upright. After adding the jars, return the water to a boil. Time the 15 minutes after water returns to a boil. Carefully remove the jars to a wire cooling rack, allow to cool completely. If the lids do not seal (they can pop up and down), refrigerate and use soon or freeze.