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Enjoy rhubarb this spring in desserts and sauces

Although botanically a vegetable, rhubarb is considered a fruit by most. Its long, celery-like pink stalks are edible, but the leaves and roots contain oxalic acid, which is toxic.

Rhubarb may be grown outside in a garden or hot house. This time of the year, our farmer markets, produce auctions and local produce stands are selling rhubarb.

When selecting rhubarb, look for crisp, unblemished stalks, avoiding any that are limp or wilted. Refrigerate and use within a week. When preparing, remove the leaves, wash the stalk and cut into ½ -inch pieces; if the stalks are large, cut them in half width-wise.

Rhubarb is more than tart, so dipping the stalk into sugar helps. I prefer the red rhubarb over the green, and it has been years since I have had it raw. My preferred ways of preparing rhubarb are as a sauce, a crisp and of course pie.

Rhubarb is excellent in pies, especially when tossed with sugar, flour, butter and some spices to thicken its abundant juices. In some pies, the rhubarb is mixed with strawberries or pineapple.

Here is a recipe that I have adapted for the microwave for rhubarb as a sauce.

Stewed rhubarb sauce


  • 6 to 8 cups diced rhubarb
  • 1 box raspberry, strawberry or cranberry gelatin (can be sugar-free)
  • ¼ to ⅓ cup instant tapioca 
  • ⅓ cup sugar


  1. In an 8-cup measuring cup or large glass bowl place 6 to 8 cups of diced rhubarb. Microwave on high for 10 minutes, stirring. It may be cooked down in that time. If not, cook a little longer.
  2. In another container mix gelatin. Stir with instant tapioca and sugar.
  3. Stir gelatin mixture in rhubarb and heat on high for three to five minutes, or until all of the dry ingredients are dissolved.
For more recipes and tips from Purdue Extension Educator Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross, subscribe to the Food & Nutrition email newsletter.

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