When heaps of crimson stalks show up in the farmer’s market, you realize it’s that time of the year again: Time for a rhubarb pie, tart, or cake. With its apparent celery similarity, deep reddish hue, super tangy taste, and flavors reminiscent of apple and grape when cooked, rhubarb is a well-known vegetable with some interesting culinary uses.
The tangy (sometimes citrusy) flavor of rhubarb makes it easy to combine with anything sweet or become part of a dessert. But the plant was not always treated as such. According to High Altitude Rhubarb, the first uses for the vegetable were documented about 5,000 years ago in Chinese medicine. In ancient times, the plant’s roots were considered a good laxative, a use that the ancient Greeks and Romans also documented. However, only in the 19th century did rhubarb become a dessert ingredient, as this was when sugar became widely available. Whether you’re already a fan of this vegetable or are just starting to discover its many qualities, here are some tips you should know when cooking with rhubarb.