So What Exactly IS Rhubarb, Anyway?

Learn about these tart stalks, and then get recipes for rhubarb pie, rhubarb crisp and more rhubarb desserts.

Rhubarb might be a seasonal spring darling, but that doesn’t mean that everyone knows what it is exactly. If you’re one of those people who secretly has no idea what rhubarb is, or think you know but aren’t confident enough to say it out loud, you’ve come to the right place. We’re about to break it down for you.

THIS is rhubarb:

Nadezhda_Nesterova via Getty Images

Kind of pretty, right?

Rhubarb is technically a vegetable, but is legally considered a fruit. In 1947 a New York court declared rhubarb a fruit because it’s most often cooked as one in the United States (and, it’s said, because it was a way to save businesses who imported these stalks from spending additional money on taxes).

Rhubarb is sold at farmers’ markets and grocery stores by the stalk, like celery. It’s harvested in the spring, with a short season that spans from April to June. Rhubarb stalks are famous for their bright pink color, as pictured above, but they can also be light pink and even pale green. The color is not an indication of ripeness or sweetness, like it is with other fruits. The stalks are the only edible part of the plant; in fact, the leaves of rhubarb are poisonous. See those leaves below? Never eat them.

This is what rhubarb looks like as a plant:

Joseph De Sciose / Aurora Photos via Getty Images

Rhubarb is naturally tart ― and we mean bone-chillingly tart ― when it’s raw, so very few brave souls ever eat it in its raw state. It’s almost always cooked or baked with a generous serving of sugar. Like in pie, for example.

This is what rhubarb looks like in pie:

DebbiSmirnoff via Getty Images

Rhubarb is famously paired with strawberries ― spring’s other darling. Strawberry rhubarb pie might be the most popular way to prepare it, but there are many more options, such as donuts, cakes and floats.

Hurry up and get your fill of rhubarb now that you know what it is ― the season will be over before you know it. Actually, you might want to stock up on some and freeze a few stalks. You’ll be thankful you did come wintertime.

1
Rhubarb and White Chocolate Blondies
Hummingbird High
Get the Rhubarb and White Chocolate Blondies recipe from Hummingbird High
2
Rhubarb Custard Tart
Pastry Affair
Get the Rhubarb Custard Tart recipe from Pastry Affair
3
Rhubarb Toaster Strudel
A Beautiful Mess
Get the Rhubarb Toaster Strudel recipe from A Beautiful Mess
4
Baked Buttermilk Doughnuts With A Strawberry Rhubarb Brown Butter Glaze
Adventures in Cooking
5
Rhubarb Panna Cotta Tart
Hummingbird High
Get the Rhubarb Panna Cotta Tart recipe from Hummingbird High
6
Rhubarb And Orange Blossom Cake
Delicious Everyday
Get the Rhubarb and Orange Blossom Cake recipe from Delicious Everyday
7
Rhubarb Ginger Muffins
Pastry Affair
Get the Rhubarb Ginger Muffins recipe from Pastry Affair
8
Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake
Completely Delicious
Get the Strawberry Rhubarb Coffee Cake recipe from Completely Delicious
9
Rhubarb Ginger Bars
Pastry Affair
Get the Rhubarb Ginger Bars recipe from Pastry Affair
10
Rhubarb And Rose Ramos Gin Fizz
James Ransom/Food52
Get the Rhubarb and Rose Ramos Gin Fizz recipe from The Dog's Breakfast via Food52
11
Individual Apple & Rhubarb Pies
Delicious Everyday
Get the Individual Apple & Rhubarb Pies recipe from Delicious Everyday
12
Spicy Rosemary Rhubarb Margarita
Adventures in Cooking
Get the Spicy Rosemary Rhubarb Margarita recipe from Adventures in Cooking
13
Strawberry-Rhubarb Stuffed French Toast
Completely Delicious
Get the Strawberry-Rhubarb Stuffed French Toast recipe from Completely Delicious
14
Sparkling Rhubarb Lemonade
James Ransom/Food52
Get the Sparkling Rhubarb Lemonade recipe from TheRunawaySpoon via Food52
15
Eton Mess With Rhubarb-Gin Jam And Lemon-Basil Meringue
cristinasciarra/Food52
16
Strawberry Rhubarb And Tarragon Tarte Tartin
Adventures in Cooking
Get the Strawberry Rhubarb and Tarragon Tarte Tartin recipe from Adventures in Cooking
17
Raspberry Rhubarb Tapioca Pudding
Tartelette
18
Rhubarb Custard Tea Cake
eat, little bird
Get the Rhubarb Custard Tea Cake recipe from eat, little bird
19
Rhubarb Vanilla Pound Cake
Pastry Affair
Get the Rhubarb Vanilla Pound Cake recipe from Pastry Affair
20
Rhubarb Cherry Hibiscus Crumble
James Ransom/Food52
Get the Rhubarb Cherry Hibiscus Crumble recipe from em-i-lis via Food52
21
Rhubarb And Rose Hand Pies
Hummingbird High
Get the Rhubarb and Rose Hand Pies recipe from Hummingbird High
22
Strawberry Rhubarb Baked French Toast
Two Peas and their Pod
Get the Strawberry Rhubarb Baked French Toast recipe from Two Peas and their Pod
23
Rhubarb Curd With Pie Crust Crumble And Vanilla Meringues
Hummingbird High
24
Rhubarb Ice Cream
nettleandquince/Food52
Get the Rhubarb Ice Cream recipe from nettleandquince via Food52
25
Honey Roasted Rhubarb
Two Peas and their Pod
Get the Honey Roasted Rhubarb recipe from Two Peas and their Pod
26
Rhubarb Cosmo
NakedBeet/Food52
Get the Rhubarb Cosmo recipe from NakedBeet via Food52
27
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
Mountain Mama Cooks
Get the Strawberry Rhubarb Jam recipe from Mountain Mama Cooks
28
Simple Rhubarb Syrup
Hummingbird High
Get the Simple Rhubarb Syrup recipe from Hummingbird High
29
Rhubarb Buckle
Alexandra Cooks
Get the Rhubarb Buckle recipe from Alexandra Cooks
30
Rhubarb Gin & Tonic
SippitySup
Get the Rhubarb Gin & Tonic recipe from SippitySup
31
Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
Pippa Riley/Food52
Get the Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp recipe from Pippa Riley via Food52
32
Vanilla Bean Rhubarb & Ginger Scone
Brown Eyed Baker
Get the Vanilla Bean Rhubarb & Ginger Scone from Brown Eyed Baker