Vegetable of the month: Rhubarb

Rhubarb is originally from Siberia and was also grown in many parts of the Himalayas. It was used for medicinal purposes in China over 4500 years ago, brought to Europe by Marco Polo in the 14th century and only started being consumed as a dessert and wine in Europe by the 19th century.

Red rhubarb is the most common but the colours can range from dark red to pink to bright green. Only the stalks are edible (once cooked), the leaves are toxic due to chemicals they contain like oxalic acid. Rhubarb is very high in vitamin K and high in manganese, potassium, calcium, fibre and vitamin C.

It can be stored in the fridge and should be eaten in a couple of days as it wilts quickly. If it comes with leaves, keep them on until cooking because they will help to keep the stalks fresh for longer.

Vegetable or fruit? Definitely vegetable even if usually consumed like fruit.

Interesting facts about rhubarb:

-It can be used to remove stains or burnt food from pots and pans.

– Boil rhubarb leaves in water and create a homemade insecticide to eliminate pests from the garden.

– In the mid-1500s and 1600s, rhubarb was more expensive than cinnamon and opium. It was popular in Europe for medicinal purposes and transporting it from China along the Silk Road made it very expensive.

For ideas on how to use rhubarb (and pie or crumble is not one of them):

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