Rhubarb is a perennial plant that grows in temperate climates. It is grown commercially for its edible stalks and leaves. The leaves are used as a vegetable in many countries. In the United States, rhubarb is primarily grown for its stalks, which are eaten raw or cooked. Rhubarb is a member of the buckwheat family (Polygonaceae).
Everyone’s favorite fruit and veggie is rhubarb! In the early summer, it may be found in pies, smoothies, sweets, and even savory foods. It’s frequently combined with strawberry since they’re both available at the same season. When, on the other hand, should you quit eating rhubarb? You may have heard that rhubarb becomes poisonous after a particular amount of time. This is what we’ll be looking at today. When is it okay to eat rhubarb, when should you stop eating it, and how can you know if it’s bad?
Rhubarb is best consumed before the end of July, or before the middle of summer. This is due to the stalks being very fibrous and losing their taste. After the middle of summer, rhubarb does not turn toxic; only the leaves are harmful.
You must, however, allow the plant to develop in peace so that it can refill in the spring. These are the primary reasons why rhubarb should not be consumed after mid-July. There’s less flavor, the stalks are excessively woody, and the plant has to be replenished in order to thrive. If you want to consume rhubarb during this period, then make sure that your plants grow well and don’t get stressed out by too much water.
The leaves of rhubarb contain oxalic acid, which causes kidney stones. They also cause stomach problems such as nausea and vomiting. Therefore, people who suffer from these conditions shouldn’t consume them.
Rhubarb is ideal for harvesting in the late spring because of the way it grows. The majority of the rhubarb cultivated and marketed in America comes from open-air fields in Oregon and Washington. This means that rhubarb should be available between May and early July.
That is the harvesting season in general. There are, however, hothouse crops. Early spring brings rhubarb cultivated in hothouses (not ordinary greenhouses; they are heated all year). The open-air fields will overlap with these, giving in a rhubarb season from late March to mid-July.
In most parts of North America, rhubarb is available year-round. However, there are some areas where it’s seasonal. For example, rhubarb isn’t usually seen until late April through May in New England. During this time, it’s considered an "early" crop. On the contrary, rhubarb is harvested all throughout June in California.
If eaten, rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid, which is poisonous. This is the plant’s principal defensive mechanism. It’s potentially fatal to animals, so keep your pets and livestock away from the leaves. To experience severe effects, humans must consume a large number of leaves, although it is preferable to avoid them.
Because the poison is solely in the leaves, you must always clip them off the stem while cooking. Rhubarb is usually offered without the leaves, but it’s always a good idea to double-check.
There’s an ancient adage that rhubarb should be avoided after the middle of summer. It is influenced by two factors:
Rhubarb stalks in late summer are exceedingly woody and practically flavorless, according to an old wives’ story about the poison in the leaves seeping into the stalks.
The first half is correct; as summer progresses, rhubarb becomes fibrous and loses its acidic taste. It can still be picked and eaten, but the results are unappealing.
The second portion regarding the poison moving is unfounded, and there’s no proof that oxalic acid permeates into the stalks. There is, however, one thing to keep an eye out for.
There are several ways to determine whether your rhubarb is edible:
1) Look at the color of the stalk. Greenish stems indicate freshness. Red ones mean that the plant was grown under stress.
2) Check the smell. Freshly cut rhubarb smells like strawberries. Overripe rhubarb smells sour.
3) Taste it. You’ll know if it tastes sweet when you bite into it. A bitter taste indicates overripening.
4) Cut it. When you slice it, look closely at how thick the slices are. Thin pieces indicate ripeness. Thick slices suggest unripeness.
5) Cook it. Cooking removes any bitterness.
6) Peel it. Peeling reveals its sweetness.
7) Smell it. If it smells rotten, discard it immediately.
Rhubarb, like any other vegetable or fruit, may and will go bad. A few indications might indicate whether something is decaying or simply not as nice as it once was. We’ll go over them here, and you should be cautious when buying rhubarb to make sure it doesn’t already have some of these symptoms.
Mold on the stalks’ ends, especially the bottom ones. Mold may develop on any surface because spores are constantly in the air around us. You have two alternatives if you notice mold on your rhubarb. You may either toss it all away or take off the moldy bit and sue the remainder. The latter option is recommended only if you’re certain that the rest of the stalk is fine. Otherwise, just throw it away.
A slimy appearance on the outside of the stalks. Slime is caused by bacteria growing inside the stalk. Again, you have two options. Either peel off the slime with a knife or leave it alone. In case you decide to remove it, wash thoroughly before eating.
Another clue that your rhubarb is beyond its prime is mushy, squishy stalks. Rhubarb stalks are similar to celery stalks in appearance. The texture is stiff, fibrous, and watery. They put up a lot of resistance when you try to snap them. Soft stalks are a bad indicator and should be discarded immediately. A distinct odor, particularly if it is sour. This indicates that the rhubarb is past its prime and should be thrown. Even when it’s fresh, rhubarb doesn’t have a distinct aroma. It may have a somewhat ‘green’ and herb-like aroma, but it shouldn’t be offensive.
If you’re buying rhubarb from the grocery store, make sure the stalks are thick and shiny. They should feel rigid to the touch and should not flex excessively. Color doesn’t matter all that much.
Rhubarb has been used medicinally since ancient times. Its use dates back to the time of Hippocrates, who prescribed it for coughs, colds, diarrhea, indigestion, kidney stones, liver problems, stomach ulcers, urinary tract infections, and more.
It also contains calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, folic acid, thiamine, riboflavin.
Rhubarb is rich in fiber, which helps lower cholesterol levels. Fiber also lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart disease.
In addition to being delicious, rhubarb is good for you!
The best way to enjoy this tasty veggie is to eat it raw. However, cooked rhubarb can still taste great. Just remember to cook it until tender so that it retains most of its nutrients.
You can find rhubarb year round. But, it’s peak season between March and May. So, buy it then. And don’t forget to check out our guide about How to Store Fruits & Vegetables For Maximum Nutrition.