All Things Rhubarb

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Like a lot of Depression-era foods, rhubarb is making a comeback. And like collard greens and okra, rhubarb isn’t just showing up in all the usual recipes. Many food trend spotters have been touting the plant as the next big thing for the last few years. It’s number one on HGTV’s 2015 Edible Trends: The Next Hot Fruits, Vegetables and Herbs list.

This trend seems to coincide with many larger food trends. Consumers today are looking for foods made without chemical dyes. Rhubarb can add beautiful coloring to a recipe or product without using artificial dyes. People are also looking for ingredients with significant health benefits and rhubarb delivers. It is rich in vitamins, minerals, and that ever-important buzzword, antioxidants.

Rhubarb has been used as a medicine for centuries but it wasn’t until after affordable sugar became commonly available, around the 17th-century, that rhubarb stems were used as a food. Its popularity peaked around the Depression, primarily because it was easy to grow and a great way to stretch more expensive fruit like strawberries and raspberries.

 In the US, rhubarb was mainly seen as ingredient for desserts, like cakes, pies, and jams. This reemergence however has seen rhubarb being used in savory dishes. As an ingredient in salsa, chutney, or compote used to top the equally trendy duck or pork, its tartness cuts through these rich meats for a crisp, balanced flavor.

Another big trend is rhubarb cocktails and soft drinks. Sites like the Food Network, HGTV, and Pinterest are loaded with recipes for rhubarb mimosas, rhubarb smoothies, rhubarb margaritas, and rhubarb soda.

This trend seems on the rise. More people are growing it, it’s popping up in farmers markets, and boutique restaurants. This is educating the public on how to prepare it, where to expect it, and adding it to their taste profiles.