Facts and history about Rhubarb

Rhubarb is one of those magical items that is very short in season and a treat when its here. Tart in taste and the perfect addition to any crumble but did you know there’s more than meets the eyes? 


Rhubarb leaves can be poisonous. If eaten in large doses, the leaves can cause throat closure due to their high levels of oxalic acid, which is an acid used in stain remover and metal polish.


90% of the world’s sweetest rhubarb is located in The Rhubarb Triangle of West Yorkshire, England. England was the first country to grow rhubarb for eating (not just medicinal purposes). The variety of rhubarb called Victorian Rhubarb was easy to grow, reliable, and consistently sweet and tender. So began the jams, jellies, custards, and tarts.


Rhubarb is a fruit! But not botanically speaking. Rheum rhabarbarum is a part of the buckwheat family. It’s also known as the smartweed family which also includes sorrel. It is unclear how Canada deems the plant. However, a New York court ruling in 1947 made it an official fruit in the United States.


The term rhubarb means a heated dispute. Ever wonder what background actors on stage are yelling about during a play? In the 1930’s, the word “rhubarb” would be repeated as their go-to ‘conversation’. This method was so popular that the Merriam Webster dictionary added a heated dispute to the definition of rhubarb.


The redder the rhubarb does NOT mean it will be sweeter rhubarb. The deep red stalk varieties may make for brighter dishes and a nicer presentation, but the concentrated colour means a more tart rhubarb. The older, more traditional variety of green stalks are more mellow in flavour.


Rhubarb is a laxative. 3000 years ago, rhubarb was used specifically for medicinal purposes. It was dried and consumed as a purgative (cleansing of the bowels), a carminative (reduce excess gas), and for ulcer treatment.

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