In season early spring: Rhubarb

Rhubarb may be considered a fruit because it is usually eaten as a dessert but it is actually a vegetable.

Thought to be a native of Tibet, rhubarb is the leaf stalk or petiole of a perennial plant. The earliest use of the rhubarb plant was medicinal, when some 5000 years ago the Chinese used rhubarb roots as a laxative.


Look for firm, red glossy stalks that are crisp and show no signs of wilting or blemishes.


Refrigerate in a plastic bag. Rhubarb is ethylene sensitive so store separately from ethylene producing veges and fruit (eg. apples).


Contains fibre and vitamin C. A good source of vitamin K to help promote strong bones. Just half a cup of stewed rhubarb has 115mg calcium (equivalent to 3/4 cup of milk).


Remove roots and leaves, wash stalks thoroughly and cut in pieces. Older, thicker rhubarb may need any coarse strings removed.

  • Use rhubarb alone in a crumble or combine with apple.
  • Stew rhubarb with a little sugar to serve with cereal for breakfast or yoghurt for a dessert.
  • Makes great jam and can be mixed with other fruits such as strawberries, raspberries or peaches.
  • Rhubarb and strawberries is a great combination. Try a chilled rhubarb and strawberry soup for a refreshing spring dessert.
  • Another great pairing is rhubarb and ginger. Make a gingered rhubarb tart for a dinner party or use ginger to flavour rhubarb jam.
  • Add to muffins and cakes.
  • Rhubarb isn’t just for desserts. The combination of tart and sweet flavours makes a good pairing for lamb, pork or venison. Make a rhubarb purée, compote or chutney to serve with grilled meat.
  • Try this recipe: Honey rhubarb tart with vanilla and cinnamon yoghurt

Did you know? The Russians took rhubarb to Alaska in the 1800s because they thought it would protect people from scurvy.

Lesperance L et al. 2009. The Concise New Zealand Food Composition Tables. 8th ed. Wellington: Plant & Food Research andMinistry of

First published: Sep 2012
Last updated: August 14 2018
Last science review: September 27 2016

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