The Question of Rhubarb

Produced by Brett Levine

Food Styling by Lily Plauché

Photography by Becky Staynor


Rhubarb is an amazing vegetable, if you can truly call it that. In the 1940s, one New York judge found otherwise, determining that rhubarb was a fruit for the purposes of import duties and regulation. Regardless of your thoughts on the matter—and rhubarb would not be the only crop to suffer the fruit or vegetable conundrum—this diverse produce can be used in a number of unexpected ways.

We’ll start with the most unexpected first: Rhubarb serves as a subtle base for a twist on the traditional brunch mimosa. Rhubarb mimosas leave orange juice aside, combining rhubarb, sugar, lemon peel, and sparkling wine to create a light and refreshing take on a classic drink.

Rhubarb Mimosas

Serves: 6


3 cups chopped rhubarb (about 1 pound)

1 (1-inch) piece lemon peel

¾ cup sugar

1 bottle sparkling wine, chilled


1. Combine rhubarb, lemon peel, sugar, and ½ cup water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes or until rhubarb is tender. Strain, discarding solids. Cool completely.

2. Pour 1-2 tablespoons rhubarb syrup into the bottom of 6 champagne flutes. Top with sparkling wine.




Nibble a rhubarb swirl muffin alongside your mimosa. These bright muffins make a wonderful breakfast; the vegetable’s own natural sweetness (what makes it worthy of being called a fruit) is enhanced with both natural and refined sugar. A spoonful of rhubarb jam provides a delicate color and subtle flavor to these buttermilk baked muffins.

Rhubarb Swirl  Muffins

Makes 18 muffins


2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

2 large eggs

¼ cup butter, melted

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup finely chopped rhubarb

5 tablespoons rhubarb jam

2 tablespoons turbinado (raw) sugar


1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line 18 muffin cups with liners.

2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together granulated sugar and eggs until slightly thick. Whisk in butter, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla.

3. Stir egg mixture and 1 cup rhubarb into flour mixture just until combined. Divide the batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Spoon about 1 teaspoon rhubarb jam into center of each muffin cup; swirl with a toothpick, skewer, or knife. Sprinkle evenly with turbinado sugar. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 17-20 minutes. Cool in pans 2 minutes; remove to wire rack to cool.


Did somebody say rhubarb jam? Rhubarb is traditionally made into jams, and rightly so. This recipe combines the sweetness of sugar with the piquant flavor and slight acidity of the limes. Kept refrigerated, this wonderful spread will last a week, bringing seasonal flavor and color to breakfast (try it slathered on those muffins.)

Rhubarb Refrigerator Jam

Makes:   1 ½ pints


2 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and cut into ½ inch pieces

2 cups sugar

⅛ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice


1. Combine rhubarb, sugar, and salt in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Boil, stirring often, 10 minutes or until foaming subsides and jam sticks to back of a spoon when lifted out of the mixture. Stir in lime juice. Let cool; cover and refrigerate overnight. Jam keeps refrigerated up to 1 week.


Whether rhubarb is a fruit or a vegetable really doesn’t matter. It adds beautiful color, subtle flavor, and wonderful texture to a range of incredible dishes and drinks. One thing is for sure: When the question is rhubarb, the answer is yes.

Leave a Reply