Although scientifically a Vegetable (herbaceous perennial to be more specific) and not a fruit, in 1947 a New York court declared rhubarb a fruit because it is most often cooked as one in the US.

Related to Sorrel, flowering time in the UK is Early spring to late summer (April until July). There are lots of different varieties of rhubarb, which are easy to grow and very hardy.

A healthy rhubarb plant will remain productive for 10 years or more. Not to be confused with garden varieties of rhubarb is Common burdock, also known as Wild Rhubarb, which looks slightly similar to rhubarb, but is not edible.

Fresh rhubarb can be stored for up to two weeks in the fridge or several days in a cool place. Both raw and cooked rhubarb freeze well. It is important to remember the leaves of the plant contain very high levels of oxalic acid so are inedible for humans, making them very unwell. To avoid pans reacting with the acid when cooking, stainless steel or Teflon pans are advised over aluminium and copper.

Believed to have first been used as a drug in England rhubarb was three times the price of opium in England mid 17th century, it wasn’t until the 18th Century that rhubarb was used in English cooking. The first commercial growers in London introduced the technique of forced growing later developed by Yorkshire growers establishing an area known as the rhubarb triangle. Forced growing involves moving roots in to sheds and keeping them in complete darkness to give a bittersweet flavour. Forced rhubarb is redder in colour and more tender than outdoor grown and the debate continues over which is tastier. The annual Wakefield festival held in February promotes the industry.

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