Even after a mild winter, this cheerful and colorful plant is a welcome first sign of spring. Although rhubarb can easily be mistaken for a fruit, this vivaciously colored vegetable can offer a spring twist to your favorite chutney, cocktail recipes, and baked goods like this rhubarb muffin recipe.
When I first see those long, reddish stalks at the farmers market, I know spring has officially arrived. After a season filled with mellower hued winter vegetables, this celery look-alike can offer a unique flavor and pop of bright color to a number of different recipes. The more I cook with this unique vegetable, the more I come to love and appreciate the number of different applications it can be used in.
Early spring rhubarb is quite tender and shouldn’t require any peeling. If you buy rhubarb later in the season or if your rhubarb seems a little fibrous, peel the outer layer as you would with a stalk of celery. While the stalks are completely edible, the leaves contain high levels of oxalic acid, which can be poisonous in large doses, so stick to the vitamin C and calcium-rich stalks.
How to buy and store rhubarb
Rhubarb stalks can be red, pink or green, or some combination thereof. The color doesn’t dictate how fresh or sweet it is. It is important, though, to choose rhubarb that is firm and crisp, without any browning on the ends.
To store fresh rhubarb, wash thoroughly and discard the leaves (if attached). Wrap the stalks in paper towels and keep in the refrigerator for up to four days.
Rhubarb also freezes very well. To freeze, cut the rhubarb into 1-inch pieces and place in a freezer bag. The frozen rhubarb will keep for up to a year.
How to use rhubarb
Chutney: When simmered with vinegar, sugar and savory spices, rhubarb can be transformed into a fantastic chutney. Try serving it as a sweet and tart accompaniment to lamb or pork. Or, for a fun spring appetizer, serve on crackers with cream cheese.
Cocktails: Make a rhubarb simple syrup and use it to give your favorite cocktails a spring flair. My favorite rhubarb libation: dry gin mixed with rhubarb simple syrup, lime soda and fresh mint.
Baked goods: Whether it is used in a classic strawberry rhubarb pie, a comforting rhubarb crumble or in these rhubarb walnut muffins, rhubarb can be a colorful and delicious addition to many baked goods recipes.
Rhubarb walnut muffin recipe
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cups brown sugar
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 cup chopped rhubarb
For the topping:
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper or foil baking cups.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
- Using an electric mixer, beat the brown sugar and butter over medium-high heat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth. Stir in the sour cream.
- Using a spatula, gradually stir in the dry ingredients until the batter just comes together; do not over mix. Gently stir in the walnuts and chopped rhubarb.
- Divide the batter among the muffin cups.
- To make the topping, combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and mix well. Sprinkle a generous pinch of the cinnamon-sugar mixture over each muffin.
- Bake the muffins about 20 minutes, or until they’re golden brown and when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack and let the muffins cool in the pan before lifting them out of the pan.