Rhubarb, aka. pieplant is a perennial vegetable that originated in Asia and was known for its medicinal properties. It was brought to Europe and America in the 1600s. Rhubarb thrives in cooler areas of the northern hemisphere and must have a dormancy period to thrive and produce an abundant crop1. No wonder rhubarb flourishes in Alaska with our cooler climate and dark winter months! Because rhubarb is a perennial, the plant will produce for many years when it is given the space to grow undisturbed.
If you do not have rhubarb growing in your garden, you can buy a start at your local greenhouse. Within a year or two of planting your start, you will have a giant flourishing rhubarb plant to harvest from. Rhubarb season lasts from about mid-late May through late July in the Southcentral region of Alaska. Another way to get ahold of rhubarb is at Pyrah’s Pioneer Peak Farm in Palmer, Alaska. Pyrah’s U-Pick Farm offers a variety of fruits and vegetables locally grown waiting for you and your family to pick them right from the dirt! Produce doesn’t get any fresher than that, now does it?
Rhubarb is known for its large edible stalks. The stalks of the plant are the only edible portion and have a rich, tart flavor and crisp texture. The leaves of the plant are toxic and are not fit for human consumption due to their high concentration of oxalic acid. Rhubarb leaves can be used to shine pots and pans. Oxalic acid is the active ingredient in many non-abrasive cleaners for stainless steel. Boil rhubarb leaves in stainless steel pots and pans and then rinse well to ensure all residue from the leaves has been removed.
Rhubarb is a great antioxidant that contains anti-inflammatory and cancer preventative properties. It contains a flavonoid known as anthocyanin, which is also found in berries, red onions, black beans, red grapes, and plums. Rhubarb is also a wonderful source of Vitamin K1 which is important for bone health and blood clotting2.
Due to the tartness of rhubarb, it is commonly combined with sweeter fruits and sugar in pies and jellies, and jams. My most favorite recipe is my Great Grandma’s recipe but that’s a secret that I can’t share with all of you. My most prized recipe that I like to take to summer barbecues is my classic Rhubarb Cream Cheese Bars. I have included the recipe below, because, unlike the pie recipe, the cream cheese bars are no secret of mine to keep.
Rhubarb is great to preserve. Rhubarb freezes well so you can stock up for those long Alaskan winters. Before you freeze, wash, dry, and chop your rhubarb for a better lifespan. Frozen rhubarb is great for making pies and other desserts when fresh rhubarb is not available.
Rhubarb Cream Cheese Bars
Recipe Originally from: Food.com, Adopted & Modified in the Kitchen of Hali Young
Exchanges documented for a dairy-free version. For Gluten-Free modifications, exchange flour for King Arthur’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour.
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, chilled (exchange: dairy-free butter)
2 cup rhubarb, chopped in 1 cm. cubes
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
Cream Cheese Filling:
2- 8 oz. packages cream cheese (exchange: Daiya dairy-free cream cheese)
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup sour cream (exchange: Tofutti dairy-free sour cream)
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Combine the ingredients for the crust, press into the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking pan, and bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
3. Toss together the rhubarb filling ingredients and spread evenly over the crust and bake for 15 minutes.
4. Mix together the cream cheese filling, beating in the eggs one at a time. Spread evenly over the rhubarb filling and bake for 25 minutes.
5. Combine the ingredients for the glaze and spread over the bars after you remove them from the oven.
6. Allow to cool completely before serving.
1. Health Benefits of Rhubarb – American Institute for Cancer Research %. (2021). Retrieved 17 June 2021, from https://www.aicr.org/resources/blog/health-benefits-of-rhubarb/
2. Rhubarb. (2021). Retrieved 17 June 2021, from https://www.almanac.com/plant/rhubarb