Perfect in a classic rhubarb fool or a comforting crumble, rhubarb is also delicious in savoury food. Try it with fresh mackerel or roast pork.
Forced rhubarb is sold from January until March, when outdoor-grown rhubarb takes over. The latter can become coarse in late summer. Choose pert looking stems and avoid any limp or slimy-looking stems.
Slice, wrap and refrigerate, if possible. Cooked rhubarb freezes well.
Wash and trim the rhubarb stems before use. Discard the leaves as they are poisonous. If using outdoor-grown rhubarb, remove any stringy outer layers. Cut into equal-sized pieces to ensure even cooking.
Forced rhubarb is very fragile so poach or bake only briefly to prevent it from disintegrating into a mush. Use a thick sugar syrup as it releases a lot of juice. Outdoor-grown rhubarb has a sharper taste and more fibrous texture, so requires a slightly longer cooking. Both varieties of rhubarb are good in pies, tarts, fools, jellies and ices. Rhubarb also makes a good jam with grapefruit, and tastes delicious made into a cordial flavoured with rosewater. Orange, vanilla and lavender all complement rhubarb.
Article by Sybil Kapoor