Rhubarb – Iowa’s Citrus Crop :-)

Rhubarb Emerging in Spring in Central Iowa

After under-utilizing it for years, I was surprised to finally realize rhubarb is one of the more important crops we grow.┬áRhubarb’s new found status was the result of two realizations. First, rhubarb is Iowa’s lemon, lime and grapefruit trees all wrapped into one. I.E., rhubarb supplies that all important “acid” that is otherewise hard to produce in temperate climates. You can use rhubarb anywhere you would use lemon or lime juice, or anywhere you want a bright, tart, sour accent. The more you use itm the more uses you find for it.

Second, I realized how easy it is to extract the juice from the rhubarb stems! This was a pleasant surprise that I’ve since used for all sorts of fruit where I want a nice clear juice with little effort. How? Simply cut a few pounds of stems into 1 inch chunks and place them in a pressure cooker with maybe a cup of water. Close the pressure cooker up and bring it up to 10-12 pounds of pressure – higher if your at higher elevations of course, then let it cool. Its just that simple. You can leave the rhubarb at pressure for a longer period – say 10 minutes – which will produce some additional juice, but it will also tend to produce a cloudy juice. So trade off depending on your preferences.

Strain the rhubarb “mush” through some cheese clothe or a layer of cotton towel. The resulting juice can be canned or frozen. Creative uses can be found for the remaining pulp as well.

We tend to make more of this raw rhubarb juice each year as we find additional uses for it. Some we add sugar to and can as a syrup. We use this as a fruit juice concentrate – often mixed with other fruit juices we prepare in the same way. Some is mixed with strawberry juice to make pancake syrup. Wemix it with crushed strawberries, sugar and a littel oil to make fresh salad dressing, etc.

The brightness of acidic rhubarb juice is one of the most important flavor elements you can produce in your home garden.