Storing and preserving rhubarb

Rhubarb is a vegetable, but it is often cooked, sweetened and combined with other fruits as a dessert. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your rhubarb this season.

Rhubarb is a perennial plant that has stalks similar to celery. Rhubarb is a vegetable, but it is often prepared or combined with fruit for desserts. Rhubarb can be eaten raw, but because of its tart flavor, it is more often cooked and sweetened with sugar. It is called the “pie plant” because one of its most popular uses is as pie filling. The leaves of rhubarb should never be eaten, as the leaves and roots contain a toxic poison called oxalic acid.

Harvesting rhubarb generally begins in April and May and is available through early summer. The deeper the red color of the stalks, the more flavorful. Larger stalks are stringy and not as tender as the medium-sized stalks. For proper storage, trim and discard leaves. The stalks can be kept in the refrigerator, unwashed and wrapped, for up to three weeks.

How to Preserve Rhubarb

Select young, tender, deep colored stalks. Trim off leaves. Wash stalks and cut into ½ to 1 inch pieces. In a large saucepan, add ½ cup sugar for each quart of rhubarb. Let stand until juice appears. Heat gently to boiling and immediately pack rhubarb mixture in hot jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jars rims. Adjust the two-piece lids and process in a Boiling Water Bath: Pints or Quarts – 15 minutes

How to Freeze Rhubarb

Choose firm, tender, well-colored stalks. Wash, trim and cut rhubarb to the sizes you will need for recipes. You may freeze rhubarb raw or blanch in boiling water for one minute, cooling promptly in cold water. Pack in containers with or without sugar, seal and freeze.

Michigan State University Extension recommends you always wash your hands before and after handling fresh produce.

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