Fruit From The Rhubarb Triangle: Nutrition, Health Benefits, Cooking And Baking With Rhubarb

Are you an aficionado of rhubarb? Perhaps you’ve never actually tried the tart, tender pink or green vegetable/fruit, and certainly some people seem to have an inbuilt bias against it.


Rhubarb is in fact classed as a vegetable although it is almost invariably treated as a fruit in culinary terms. It is cultivated in many countries and many areas of the UK, but most notably in the so-called ‘rhubarb triangle’ of Rothwell, Wakefield and Morley in West Yorkshire.1 Rhubarb has become part of the local character and mythology, along with flat caps, whippets and re-runs of ‘Last of the Summer Wine’. There is even a local festival based around rhubarb in the Yorkshire rhubarb triangle!


Rhubarb looks like a thick stalk, either green or pink in shade according to whether it has been ‘forced’ – i.e. grown in the dark for speed, delicacy and flavour – or not. The stalk is the edible portion and the large, dark green leaves should not be eaten, as they contain toxic levels of oxalic acid. Don’t try cooking them!

Growing Rhubarb?

Previously an unfashionable cooking ingredient, in recent years rhubarb has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity on the back of its adoption by trendy telly chefs in delicate concoctions. But rhubarb still brings to mind, for most of us, images of hefty, satisfying puddings – crumbles and pies and turnovers with lashings of custard or cream! It can be a great addition when stewed, especially to yoghurt, and especially naughty, fatty greek style yoghurt. Also many of us, if lucky, will have experienced eating a stalk of rhubarb dipped into the corner of a bag of sugar as a semi-healthy childhood treat – sharp enough and sweet enough to take your breath away!



But what are the possible nutritional and health benefits of rhubarb? If it’s vitamins and minerals that concern you then rhubarb has notable quantities of Vitamin C and some minerals, and on a macronutritional level it contains zero grams of fat - yes, that's zero!, one gram of protein and six grams of carbohydrate per one hundred and twenty-two grams of raw rhubarb (according to the Nutritondata website)2. Could it be a beneficial vegetable in terms of weight loss? Certainly studies such as that by Lindstrom et al in Diabetalogia (2006)3 suggest that a high-fiber diet can aid in the pursuit of reduction in obesity. And rhubarb contains nine per cent dietary fiber per serving.2 And interestingly, one 2006 study by Huang et al 5 investigated the possible anti-cancer effects of rhubarb, producing some promising results.



What about if you’re planning to grow a rhubarb crown of your own? They’re not easy to raise from seed: you may need a plant ready-grown in order to meet with success from your efforts.4 Good luck: Rhubarb is a strange and delicious vegetable that’s well worth taking a little trouble over! (And researching it counts as an excuse to trawl around all the many pubs in Wakefield.)


References:

1. 'Rhubarb Triangle'. 01/07/2010. 24/08/2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhubarb_Triangle>

2. 'Rhubarb, raw'. 2009. Accessed 24/08/2010. <http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/2056/2>

3. Lindström, J. Peltonen, M., Eriksson, J.G., Louheranta, A. Fogelholm, M. Uusitupa, M. and Tuomilehto, J. Diabetologia 49:5, pp. 912-920

4. Garden Action Mini Project. 'Growing Rhubarb.' 02/03/05 Accessed 24/08/2010. <http://www.gardenaction.co.uk/fruit_veg_diary/fruit_veg_mini_project_september_1_rhubarb.asp>

5. Q Huang, G Lu, H-M Shen, MCM Chung, CN Ong. Anti-cancer properties of anthraquinones from rhubarb. Medicinal Research Reviews. 27(5), pp.609–630. September 2007.

Rhubarb, huh?

Rhubarb. How about that?

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Deborah Demander profile image

Deborah Demander 5 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

I have quite a garden of rhubarb. Now I know what to do with it.

Namaste.

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