Image: Allison Jones

Rhubarb is like a tart, alien-shaped signpost that reads "SPRING IS HERE." Sure, it looks like blushing celery and it is technically a vegetable, but this gem of an ingredient is the perfect way to move beyond leafy greens and cold-storage apples and into the new season. Here, local whole foods expert Lauren Chandler of Lauren Chandler Cooks shares three new ways to use the colorful ingredient.

Rhubarb Breakfast Bowl

Serves 4 

  • ¼ pound rhubarb, sliced into ¼ - ½-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
  • ¼ cup grade b maple syrup
  • pinch sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom
  • 4 cups cooked whole grain (I like quinoa or wheat berries) and/or granola for crunch
  • 2 cups milk, cream or yogurt of your choice
  • 1/4 cup chopped toasted pistachio nuts
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon bee pollen
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground flax seed

In a small pot, bring the rhubarb, maple syrup, cardamom and salt to a gentle boil over medium heat. Cook for 4-6 minutes, stirring gently few times, to ensure even cooking. When the rhubarb softens and the mixture becomes somewhat saucy with some slices still in tact, remove from heat.

To serve, divide the grains or granola among 4 bowls. Add milk, yogurt or cream, then top with the rhubarb compote, pistachio nuts, bee pollen and flax seed.

Honey Roasted Rhubarb Mustard

Makes 1 1/4 cups 

  • 1/2 pound rhubarb, sliced into ½-inch – ¼ inch pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup mustard powder
  • 1/4 cold water
  • 3 tablespoons cold champagne vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Evenly coat the rhubarb with the honey in a 8x8 baking dish. Cook for 10-12 minutes, until the rhubarb softens but still holds its shape.  Transfer the rhubarb and the cooking liquid to a medium bowl and cool in the refrigerator. 

Once the rhubarb mixture has cooled, stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover the bowl and return to the refrigerator for 24 hours to let the flavors bloom.

Hibiscus Rhubarbaritas

Makes 2 ½ cups Hibiscus Rhubarb Juice 

  • ¼ cup dried hibiscus flowers
  • 1½ pounds rhubarb, sliced into ¼-inch to ½-inch pieces (6 cups)
  • ½ - ¾ cup sweetener (like coconut sugar)

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium pot. Turn off the heat, add hibiscus flowers and steep for 15 minutes. Remove from heat then strain through cheesecloth or a fine mesh sieve over another pot or large bowl, squeezing the cheesecloth or pressing the hibiscus against the sieve to release the liquid. Return the liquid to the pot. 

Add the rhubarb to the pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb falls apart into threads. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the sweetener and simmer, stirring for 2-3 minutes, until it dissolves.  

Remove from heat then strain through cheesecloth or a fine mesh sieve over another pot or large bowl, squeezing the cheesecloth or pressing the pulp against the sieve to release the liquid. Reserve the pulp.

Transfer the hibiscus rhubarb juice to a heat safe container and let cool before serving. 

To serve, mix 1 part rhubarb hibiscus juice with 1 part tequila over ice. Add lime to taste.

Bonus ideas!

  • Make granita out of the rhubarb syrup above by freezing it in a baking dish, then scraping it with the tines of a fork.
  • For a non-alcoholic beverage, simply dilute the juice with still or sparkling water, and add a squeeze of lemon or lime.
  • Reserve the pulp to spread on toast or top a breakfast bowl.
  • Use fresh ginger or vanilla bean instead of hibiscus. 
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