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The Gift Of Rhubarb

Mary ConleyDear readers, do you like rhubarb? My husband, Larry, used to chew on the tart stalks when he was a kid, but I could never do that. I once made a rhubarb pie for our suppers’ group, and one of the ladies quickly told me she wouldn’t like it. I encouraged her to take a couple bites, explaining that my custard-like filling softens the taste. She loved it! I’ll include the recipe below.

Rhubarb was the first perennial vegetable I planted on our little farm, right after the fruit trees and berries. It just seemed to me that every farm should have some, so I begged a few plants off my neighbor, and later bought more from Earl May Nursery.


Maybe they were just rhubarb plants, but I was very excited to see them emerge from the ground.

I had just the place for them, tucked in between the fence of the garden bed and one of the apple orchards. It turned out to be a perfect spot as whenever the garden was watered, so was the rhubarb, and that is how I discovered that rhubarb can be good the whole summer if you don’t let it dry out and get stringy.


Look closely. Do you see what is snuggled under the leaves?! Photo by Nancy

The plants thrived, and I felt a little guilty; wondered why I planted so many just to watch it go unused. Much to my surprise, it has become a favorite.

To harvest, I simply cut it off close to the ground, wash, chop into small pieces, and bag in two- or three-cup quantities for the freezer. Even the large leaves are handy, as I layer them around the plants to smother the weeds.

Then, do I make pies? Seldom! (I’ll probably need to, though, after Larry reads this!) Instead, I make sauce, by simmering it with a small amount of sugar – about 1/4 cup or to taste. It couldn’t be quicker or easier. Then we use the sauce on vanilla ice cream. Yum! The mixture of sweet and tart is the best! It is good on oatmeal, too.

Those who make a lot of jam also use rhubarb as a filler, as it picks up the flavor of the berries and you don’t need as many.

Now, here is what my daughter-in-law, Nancy, discovered: She tried a recipe out of the Ball Canning Book for “Sunshine Rhubarb Juice Concentrate,” and it was a success. In fact, Todd likes it so well, he thinks we should market it! He enjoys keeping a jar cooling in the fridge for hot summer days, and getting his friends to try and guess what it is made from. It is a concentrate, so it can be thinned, or added to other juices, ice tea, lemonade, or punch for an extra “kick.”

I imagine many of you have favorite rhubarb recipes of your own. Perhaps for a good crisp?! Here are the two that I mentioned:   

Rhubarb Pie

1  1/2 cups sugar

3 tablespoons flour

Pinch of salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2 eggs

2 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon butter, melted

3 cups rhubarb

Mix dry ingredients. Beat eggs slightly, and combine eggs, milk and butter with dry ingredients. Mix in rhubarb. Place between two pie shells. Bake at 400 F for 15 minutes. Then, 350 F for 45 minutes. Enjoy!

Sunshine Rhubarb Juice Concentrate

(Makes 4 or 5 pint jars, so you might want to double the recipe.)

12 cups chopped rhubarb, in about 1-inch long slices

4 cups water

1  1/2 cups sugar

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Grated zest and juice of 1 orange

In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine rhubarb and water, lemon zest, and orange zest. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat, cover and boil gently until rhubarb is soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add lemon juice and orange juice.

Transfer to a dampened jelly bag or strainer lined with several layers of cheese cloth set over a deep bowl. Let drip for at least 2 hours.

Combine rhubarb juice and sugar and while stirring, bring back to 190 degrees over heat to dissolve sugar. 

Prepare hot water bath canner and lids. Process pints for 10 minutes. Then allow them to cool for 5 minutes before pulling them out of the canner.

4/30/2014 12:13:52 PM

Too much sugar. Mix rhubarb with other fruits to make pies and cakes. Apple and rhubarb are good together, or peach and rhubarb. Banana rhubarb bread or smoothie would taste good and allow less sugar to this recipe. All that sugar is not good for anybody.

4/30/2014 8:54:21 AM

Annet, How exciting! Maybe you'll find some asparagus that Nebraska Dave mentioned below! We have grown to love our rhubarb and use it a lot. Thanks so much for posting.

4/30/2014 8:48:15 AM

When I moved here there was an old shed from the original homestead. While cleaning up around it discovered under a bunch of old junk on the south side a nice patch trying to grow threw all the junk. It had to of been there from the original homestead. I'm thinking it has been there around 50 years.

1/25/2014 11:17:39 AM

Thanks for commenting, everyone! Don't forget to try my rhubarb pie recipe! I don't drink, but I would like to taste rhubarb wine, once! Dave, that is interesting about the abandoned places. I want to plant extras that come up sometimes, out in various places to grow wild. Of course, deer eat off most things, but. . .

1/23/2014 10:31:09 AM

Mary, practically every Nebraska farm place had a patch of rhubarb and a patch of asparagus. As farms grew bigger, farm houses would go unused and left to decay through the years. Three things would usually survive even though left unattended. Rhubarb, asparagus, and for a time the fruit orchards would live on long after the home farm house occupants had left. Abandon railroad tracks were another place to find asparagus and many times other perennial plants. I never acquired a taste for rhubarb but I've had rhubarb and strawberry pie that was good. I might plant some rhubarb in my big garden (Terra Nova Gardens) just to give away to folks in the neighborhood that might like it. ***** Have a great rhubarb day.

1/23/2014 7:36:03 AM

Great post! My mom tells me she never had OJ as a child - it was chokecherry, rhubarb, whatever was available on the farm. She didn't like it, though! We're going to try rhubarb wine this year! :)

1/22/2014 10:15:25 PM

Now I know one thing I really want to plant in the garden this year! And the rhubarb sauce and juice sound absolutely scrumptious! I will definitely try them. Thanks for the recipes!