Have you steered clear of rhubarb in the produce aisle because you only know it mixed with strawberries in a pie, or you thought it seemed more like decor than a delicacy? Before zipping your shopping cart by this the rhubarb section, I plan to stop you in your tracks. That's right people, it is time to stop and smell the rhubarb.
Not sure what exactly rhubarb is? It looks like a vegetable, but like many fruits, rhubarb is often used in desserts, which is why it's considered a "pie plant." (Rhubarb can join its friends avocado and tomato in the "Is It a Fruit or Vegetable?" guessing game.) This magenta food is actually a member of the buckwheat family, and botanically speaking, it's a vegetable. While the beautifully-colored rhubarb stem is delicious (albeit tart) and filled with nutrients, the roots and leaves should be avoided because they are highly poisonous.
The compounds that give rhubarb its vibrant red color come mainly from the antioxidants lycopene and anthocyanins, which help promote heart and eye health, prevent cancer and power that immune system. Rhubarb is also one of the rare veggies that is a good source of calcium. Lutein is another powerful compound found in rhubarb that's known to help aid in skin and eye health. Rhubarb also boasts plenty of vitamin K, which helps form blood clots. We need vitamin K to stop cuts from bleeding, form scabs and heal us. Rhubarb is really a powerhouse of nutrition, as it also contains notable amounts of vitamin C, potassium, manganese and fiber.
We all get stuck in the same routine with our produce. I'm challenging you to try something new, something powerful and something delicious. Try rhubarb, and you'll make your mouth and body happy.
Here are three different ways to delight your taste buds with this pretty-in-pink vegetable:
Grilled Chicken with Rhubarb Salsa
For the salsa:
1 1/2 cups diced rhubarb
1/2 cup diced strawberries
1 jalapeno seeded and diced
Juice from 1 lime
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus a little extra for garnish
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
For the chicken:
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium mixing bowl, toss together the rhubarb, strawberries, jalapeno, lime juice, cilantro, and olive oil. Salt and pepper. Refrigerate salsa while grilling chicken.
Preheat skillet. Coat chicken with remaining tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper. Grill for approximately four to six minutes per side.
To serve, top each chicken breast with rhubarb salsa and garnish with fresh cilantro.
3 cups rhubarb, chopped
1 cup water
1/4 cup agave nectar
1-2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons gin or vodka
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
In saucepan, combine rhubarb, water, agave nectar, ginger and lemon juice. Bring to a low simmer and cook until rhubarb is completely soft (5 to 10 minutes).
Puree rhubarb mixture using either an immersion blender, food processor or upright blender.
Place the mixture into a container and then store in freezer for four hours. Once the mixture starts to freeze, mix it up a bit with a fork so it doesn't become one big ice cube. Finish freezing the mixture, which usually takes 12 more hours.
When you are ready to serve, blend the frozen mixture into the blender. This will give it that "sorbet" texture.
Vanilla and Honey Rhubarb Jam
5 cups rhubarb, chopped
2 cups honey
1 cup water
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
Juice from 1 lemon
Pinch of salt
1 pouch liquid pectin
Combine rhubarb and sugar in a large pot. Cover with a clean hand towel and set aside for several hours.
Add water and cook on medium-high heat until boiling. Add the vanilla, lemon juice and salt. Cook for an additional 10 minutes before stirring in the pectin. After the pectin has been added, continue to cook until the jam coats the back of a spoon in an even sheet.
Transfer jam into hot sterilized jar, leaving half an inch of headspace. Wipe the mouth of the jar clean before placing lid and ring on the jar. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool undisturbed for 24 hours.
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Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, is the founder and president of Nutritious Life, a nutrition practice based in New York City, and Nutritious Life Meals, a gourmet, healthy, daily diet delivery program available across the country. She is a member of Women's Health Magazine's advisory board and has authored Slim Calm Sexy Diet, The O2 Diet, and The Snack Factor Diet. Her fourth book, The New You and Improved Diet, will be released in December. Her expertise is regularly featured on the Today show, Good Morning America, and Access Hollywood Live, among others, and she hosts "A Little Bit Better" on YouTube's Livestrong Woman channel. Read more of Keri's tips every day on Facebook!