How To Preserve Rhubarb: Making Full Use of This Simple Vegetable

I love rhubarb in the garden. Learning how to preserve rhubarb is a great way to be able to enjoy it for the entire year, instead of just during the summer months.

If you don’t have a rhubarb in your garden, find a friend that has one. It is easy to divide an existing rhubarb plant, and replant it in your garden.

I just picked our first harvest, and made canned rhubarb filling with it. So good! It’s delicious in pies, but can also be used in Greek yogurt or ice cream.

Rhubarb is a versatile vegetable that often stuns with its unique tart flavor, making it a favorite for desserts.

Some use it in savory dishes, but I can’t give you advice on that, as I have never tried that.

You’ve got a few options when it comes to preserving rhubarb. Each method caters to different preferences and uses.

Freezing, canning, and dehydrating are the most popular ways to keep your rhubarb fresh for future recipes. Most of my rhubarb gets turned into canned pie filling, and a little freezing.

Choosing and Harvesting Rhubarb

To enjoy rhubarb’s tart flavor, picking the right stalks at the ideal time is crucial.

We had a chilly and wet spring this year and I’ve noticed a flavor difference in rhubarb. It’s super crunchy, but it lacks the strong tangy flavor that I prefer. It tastes a bit more watery.

Identify Ripe Rhubarb

When determining whether rhubarb is ripe, look for stalks that are at least 10 inches long and possess a deep red color—though color can vary from green to pink to red.

The stalks should be firm and pulled, not cut, from the base. Test the stalk strength; if it’s rigid and doesn’t bend easily, it’s ready for harvest.

Use the following checklist to identify ripe rhubarb:

  • Length of 10 inches or more
  • Deep coloration (red, pink, or green)
  • Firmness to the touch
  • Rigidity indicates readiness

Harvesting Techniques

To harvest rhubarb, grasp the base of the stalk and gently twist it while pulling it away from the plant.

Avoid cutting the stalks with a knife as this can lead to rotting of the remaining stem.

Once harvested, remove the leaves immediately – they contain high levels of oxalic acid and are toxic if consumed. Placing the leaves around the base of the rhubarb plant helps keep weed pressure down.

Remember, harvest no more than one-third to one-half of the plant’s total stalks at one time to ensure the plant remains productive throughout the season.

This method promotes healthy regrowth. In Zone 3 I can usually get 3 harvest out of my rhubarb plant.

  1. Twist and pull the stalk from the base.
  2. Remove and discard the leaves right away.
  3. Limit harvest to one-third of the plant’s stalks.

How To Preserve Rhubarb

There are several ways you can keep rhubarb fresh for longer periods. Each method suits different uses, ensuring you have rhubarb ready for any recipe.

Freezing Rhubarb

Step 1: Wash your rhubarb stalks thoroughly.
Step 2: Cut them into the size of pieces you’ll likely use in future recipes.
Step 3: Spread the rhubarb pieces on a baking sheet and freeze until solid.
Step 4: Transfer the frozen pieces into freezer bags, label them with the date, and store them in your freezer.

Frozen rhubarb is great for Rhubarb Bread, Rhubarb muffins, Rhubarb Crisp and Rhubarb Cake.

Canning Rhubarb

My favorite way to preserve rhubarb is to make Rhubarb Pie Filling. This makes a delicious sauce that is used for pies, but also as a topping for ice cream and Greek yogurt. It’s also delicious in campfire sandwiches.

  • Ingredients: Clean rhubarb, sugar, clear gel, water, lemon juice.
  • Jar preparation: Sterilize jars and lids by boiling them for 10 minutes.

In a pot, put 4 cups of rhubarb. Add 1/2 cup water, and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix together 1 cup sugar and 3 heaping tbsp. cooking clear gel. Once the rhubarb is boiling, add the sugar mixture. Cook until the rhubarb is nice and thick. Add in a tbsp of lemon juice.

  • Packing jars:
    1. Fill jars with pie filling. Wipe rim well.
  • Sealing: Apply lids and rings, tighten to fingertip tightness.
  • Processing: Process jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Making Rhubarb Jam

Ingredients: You’ll need rhubarb, sugar, pectin, and optional flavoring agents such as orange zest.
Pectin preparation: Mix pectin with a portion of the sugar to avoid clumping.
Cooking: Combine rhubarb, pectin-sugar mixture, and the rest of the sugar in a large pot; bring to a rolling boil while constantly stirring.
Filling jars: Pour the hot jam into sterilized jars, leaving a 1/4-inch headspace.
Sealing: Wipe rims, apply lids, and screw on bands.
Processing: Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Drying Rhubarb

  • Preparation: Cut rhubarb into uniform pieces and dip in a diluted lemon juice solution to preserve color.
  • Oven drying:
    • Preheat oven to the lowest temperature.
    • Place rhubarb pieces on a lined baking tray.
    • Dry in the oven, turning occasionally, until pieces are brittle.
  • Storage: Once cooled, store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.

Freeze drying rhubarb is something that I want to try some day, but for now these methods of preserving rhubarb is all I know. If you have experience with freeze drying rhubarb, please share with us in the comments. We would love to learn from you.

What’s your favorite way to preserve rhubarb so that you can enjoy it for the entire year?