Is rhubarb good for you?

by sophie on May 5, 2008 · 33 comments

Post image for Is rhubarb good for you?

I’m delegating responsibility to Jamie Oliver for the nutritional component of today’s post. As he comments, it’s nearly all water. 

It does have a bit of vitamin C, some calcium and fibre, but that’s not the point of rhubarb…Instead it has an amazing flavour spectrum

Jamie Oliver

He’s right too, I double-checked in my always to hand “incredibly detailed guide to the nutritional composition of everything” book. But not every fruit and vegetable has to be an antioxidant superhero; sometimes it’s just enough for them to be there, saving us from some riotously unhealthy alternative choice. And it does a fine job of tasting amazing, even when people turn it into whacky sounding dishes like hot and sour rhubarb sauce and rhubarb and ginger oat thickie.

…people are rediscovering the health benefits of eating rhubarb and it fits into modern tastes

Janet Oldroyd

The distinguished history of rhubarb was one of the topics discussed on clever quiz show Q.I last week. As well as discussing Yorkshire’s rhubarb triangle, it turns out that rhubarb was very popular for its health-giving properties in Queen Victoria’s time. So popular in fact that during the First Opium War China threatened to withdraw the supply of rhubarb to the UK, thus wiping out the entire population through mass constipation. Phew, it’s a good job we won…

Taking pictures of rhubarb is just infuriating.  It’s just so darn long.  What are the options?  A mid-section shot perhaps, or a jauntily angled shot of the ends?  Prop it up and stand well back made a nice change I thought, with a little help from my assistant of course…


Recipe for an easy rhubarb and orange compote

To dollop onto your porridge or stir into yogurt.  You can also use this as the base for my rhubarb and oat thickie.

500g rhubarb, trimmed and cut into inch long pieces
Zest and juice of one orange
2 Tbsp floral honey

Place all of the ingredients into a small saucepan. Heat gently until the rhubarb has softened completely.

Taste and add more honey if required.

Freezes well to be enjoyed after the rhubarb season ends.


Katerina May 5, 2008 at 21:46

I think your assistant is a great addition to the picture. She looks just like my cat too :)

kathryn May 5, 2008 at 23:14

While we’re at the opposite ends of the seasonal spectrum, rhubarb is also “in” here in Australia.
I realised during your post I’ve never pondered the healthfulness of rhubarb, or otherwise. It’s just such a damn fine tasting food. Plenty of fibre, some vitamin C and surely some antioxidants, given the slight red-tinge?

Pille May 6, 2008 at 07:14

Rhubarb is very popular here in Estonia, mainly because it’s the first local ‘fruit’ (I know it’s technically a veg, but…) here, and it’s tasty and refreshing. I’ve made three different rhubarb dishes for three days in a row now, and I don’t think I’ll get tired any time soon (well, not until local strawberries appear:)

Helen May 6, 2008 at 10:39

Mmmm, I love rhubarb! I can see what you mean about the shot though, how inconsiderate of it to be so long!

andreea May 6, 2008 at 12:37

i love love love rhubarb. crumble. compote. soup. anything goes. love.

Christina May 6, 2008 at 20:51

I agree completely, sometimes it’s just enough for them to be there. To me rhubarb is just one of those simple things I enjoyed as a child. The first thing that popped up in our garden and I was allowed to eat them — right out there. Gee, they were sour …. Love ’em.

Sophie May 6, 2008 at 21:39

Thanks Katerina – cats are just so nosey! Both of ours got involved in the picture taking
Kathryn – isn’t it strange that rhubarb is in season in Australia at the same time as here? You are right about those antioxidants, there are a few studies out there!
Pille – I think we have the same feeling about rhubarb in England – the first fruit of the year always seems to exciting!
Helen – I know, it’s just awkward :-)
Andreea – rhubarb soup, now I hadn’t thought of that, I may have to experiment…
I thought rhubarb was really sour when I was little too Christina. Mind you, I never tried it raw from the ground. I wonder if you did that twice!

Johanna May 7, 2008 at 12:54

I am of the belief that brightly coloured fruit must be good for you and I love the ruby hues of rhubarb – it is always enough to convince me I should eat it!

Wendy May 7, 2008 at 22:58

Have you ever had rhubarb rock before? It’s coloured just like rhubarb and tastes exactly like it but is made entirely from sugar. When I was a kid I used to eat it in the winter months instead of nibbling real rhubarb from my grandad’s garden. As a result I always have a nagging suspiscion that rhubarb is really bad for me!

Deb May 7, 2008 at 23:05

I never think about rhubarb. I know it is a spring veggie, but it is seldom in our market down here. I do have fond memories of rhubarb pie that my grandmother used to make that is making my mouth water just thinking about it!
I adore your photo with your kitty! I know what you mean about getting the good shot when something is so tall! I always try to get the whole wine bottle in the photo but sometimes it is very tricky!

Susan from Food Blogga May 7, 2008 at 23:20

I make a strawberry-rhubarb compote like yours to add to my smoothies and oatmeal. It certainly enlivens breakfast! I am intrigued by your last post too. Tofu, strawberries, and rhubarb sounds so exciting together. Thanks for all of this deliciousness. And long live Jaime!

Gail May 8, 2008 at 13:44

Rhubarb: Easter Dinner would not be complete without Rhubarb. Our family favorites in that category are all Rhubarb fruit pie or a Rhubarb/Custard pie. Both are fabulous. Rhubarb offers that wonderful ying-yang of tastes. In Canada it is abundant in every garden. Unfortunately, where I live now, it is just too darn hot for rhubarb to survive.

Mary May 8, 2008 at 21:22

I must admit, my mind has never pondered the health benefits of rhubarb. It simply remembers the joy of plucking it out of the garden, washing and then dipping in a bowl of granulated suger. MMMMM

Maggie May 9, 2008 at 01:21

I like the composition of the rhubarb.
I like stewed rhubarb on a split scone or southern style biscuit.

Trig May 12, 2008 at 09:58

It’s simply England’s national culinary treasure. Especially when NOT cooked with 2tbsp of sugar, as per the BBC Food website.

carmen May 14, 2008 at 17:47

I have never been a huge fan of rhubarb up until about a couple years ago. My mom grows a bunch of rhubarb and so we do a lot of things with it. My mom makes the best strawberry rhubarb jam. then there is a rhubarb cake recipe that I recently found. It is so good. Actually I just made rhubarb bread for the first time. It is excellent!! I have never tried rhubarb soup but I think that it could be good. Oh yeah, rhubarb also freezes well. our freezers full.

shauna May 20, 2008 at 14:21

Your photos are gorgeous! I only got into rhubarb since I moved to Scotland from Australia; as a child I thought it was something only Old People liked :) Now I love i but it’s hard to find recipes without huge amounts of sugar!
I have been looking for an excuse to make this rhubarb, apple and ginger crunch trifle that was the BBC Good Food covergirl a couple of months ago… DROOL!

Erin @ The Skinny Gourmet May 27, 2008 at 21:17

What beautiful photos too! Rhubarb is a favorite of mine, so I confess when I saw the title a small voice in my head said “please please let it be so!”
I think the quirky taste of rhubarb saves me from chocolate cravings, because who can really crave chocolate with that wild sour yet compelling taste of rhubarb still fresh in the mouth?

Alec S. June 11, 2008 at 17:09

Is it safe for cats to eat rhubarb? I’ve read that it can help kickstart the pancreas to produce insulin, which makes it helpful for diabetics. But, what about diabetic cats?

J.Rube July 2, 2008 at 07:29

I’m in the middle of an absolute rhubarb lovefest. I came looking for the health benefits of rhubarb; praying for it to be so, like one of the previous posters….
I wanted something to add to my cottage cheese, so I cooked it all up the other day. I can’t get enough of the stuff. The flavour is one that I crave.
You’ve inspired me to get more creative with my rhubarb this summer. I’m going to try the soup, and I’m going to check out Jamie’s recipes, too.
Nice website.
(I found you by accident, but I might stay on purpose… )

Diane August 24, 2008 at 22:15

My girlhood friend’s grandmother (from Estonia) made a large flat rhubarb pie that she called Rhubard Bitty Bitty Cut. It was probably about 18″ X 12″ with a double crust – it was delicious. Was wondering if anybody has a recipe for it? I have tried to make my own but it does not compare – maybe it is those childhood memories????? Thanks.

Carrie October 21, 2008 at 00:54

I like rhubarb, especially for breakfast, with a slice of buttery toast. I do have a question about rhubarb, is it safe on home grown rhubarb to cut and eat it anytime or just in the spring. looking forward to hearing from anyone

Melanie June 22, 2009 at 02:03

Just made rhubarb punch. 4 cups cut up rhubarb, 4 cups water, cooked, strained, add sugar to taste, chill. Delicious!

Dorothy Seidenburge June 27, 2009 at 23:15

I love rhubarb, mumused to cookit when we were kids, just sugar and water bring to a boil and simmer till soft i just had a spoon full after i cooled it in the refridge and had a spoon full of ice cream on top i’m looking for other recipies

Sophie August 17, 2009 at 18:11

Is eating raw rhubarb bad for you? My friend likes eating it raw straight from the ground dipped in sugar – I tried some and liked it so I had some more. Some people say it gives you stomach ache, though… does it?

Annie January 3, 2010 at 03:04

Has anyone tried Rhubard Champagne? It is about 5% alcohol, pink in colour, lots of bubbles and because of the cool temperate climate I live in (Tasmania, Australia) grows extremly well.

Stephanie January 12, 2010 at 20:31

Hi rhubarb loving people, same thing here, I used to just help myself to my Dad’s rhubarb patch, choose a nice clean pink stalk and pull like hell, I was’nt very tall then, but hey presto I grew to 6ft tall, laughing now your messages really took me back to my childhood, I too always washed the stalk under the tap and stuck it straight into the suger bag wiggled it about a bit, and yummmmmmmmmmmm heaven,It didn’t stop there popping peas,strawberries apples pear’s, we had the best garden for miles, the best thing is me Dads still growing fruit and veg at 78 yrs young, and he’s our hero.

ozanio December 20, 2011 at 08:44

Rhubarb leaves contain a high concentration of
oxalate, which is poisonous in large doses.
The stems contain a lower concentration of oxalate, and
also act as a good laxative. Some foods were never meant
for human consumption, and rhubarb is at the top of that

colin May 28, 2012 at 11:37

You can make wonderfully deserts pudding this way.. using few Rhubarbs in a pan add either Apple or Orange juice well just 1\4 below the pan and added Brown sugar and Ginger power just sprinkle on top NOT TOO MUCH otherwise you would’nt able to taste Rhubarb you will get too spicy…bring out to boil then skimmer for about 10 mins, cool it and drain out the Rhubard juice in glass then serve in desert bowl and use packet custards and added cinnamon…..,yom yom have you tried it yet? Place Rhubarb juice in glass in fridge when cool use it for next morning breakfast!!…Go on be a Devil!!

sophie May 28, 2012 at 22:36

Sounds good Colin! I can’t believe I still haven’t had any rhubarb yet this year

Amy @Macncheesenpeas June 8, 2012 at 16:18

Thanks for this post! I just got a bunch of rhubarb from my farm share and I have no idea what to do with it! I found this link on Joy the Baker. I’ll be back to see what else you come up with! :)

Serena July 17, 2012 at 05:12

I just heard that rhubarb is actually bad for your kidneys, and to eat it lightly. Anyone else ever heard such a thing? I have yet to find out if it’s true or not, and in fact doing a little research on it is how I found this site. My gut response is that many foods can be bad for the kidneys and everything else in turn if they are eaten in excess. I’ll try to let ya’ll rhubarb heads know what the outcome of my research reveals. Until then, eat your rhubarb without guilt!!

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