5 Uses For Rhubarb

Early spring rhubarb.

Early spring rhubarb.

By Liesl Clark

Rhubarb has been around a long time. By some accounts, it has a 4,700-year-old history whose origins lie in a couple of remote regions in Tibet. I’ve simply known rhubarb as the weird-looking sour stalk with an enormous leaf that makes its presence known around Mother’s Day when we bake our family favorite: strawberry rhubarb pie. As far as fruit pies are concerned, nothing compares.

Strawberry rhubarb pie. © Liesl Clark

Strawberry rhubarb pie. © Liesl Clark

Is rhubarb a fruit or a vegetable? It’s actually a veggie, but in this country it took a court case to establish rhubarb officially as a fruit. According to Wikipedia, “Rhubarb is usually considered to be a  vegetable; however, in the United States, a New York court decided in 1947 that since it was used in the United States as a fruit, it was to be counted as a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties.”

This year's rhubarb is, well, GIANT. © Liesl Clark

This year’s rhubarb is, well, GIANT. © Liesl Clark

Aside from dessert (and using it as an umbrella), what else can you do with this weird plant?

1) Put those leaves in your compost. They’ll break down quickly.

2) Hair Dye: Rhubarb root and leaves can be used for hair dye. One recipe here will give you a pink look, the other a beautiful brown.

3) Pot Cleaner: If you want to give your pots an added shine, use rhubarb leaves. The high oxalic acid content in the leaves renders them toxic, so take care to not ingest them. But they’re fine to handle and use on your pots.


4) Insecticide: The rhubarb leaf is quite toxic. Even insects steer clear of it. Here are 2 recipes to keep your plants bug free.

Use rhubarb leaves as insecticide. © Liesl Clark

Use rhubarb leaves as insecticide. © Liesl Clark

5) Juice: Try your hand at making rhubarb shrub. What? Shrub. It’s an American classic. And it’s bubbly and tasty. You’ll see.

What rhubarb uses can you add?

Looking for more wonderful things you can do with everyday produce? Check out our blog home page where we have a series of interesting uses for things  you regularly have in your kitchen.

Click Through to Reuse Everyday Things at Trash Backwards

Click Through to Reuse Everyday Things at Trash Backwards

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7 Comments on “5 Uses For Rhubarb”

  1. July 14, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    Compote! Just chop and cook down the stalks with sugar, or even without – makes a delicious toast-spread, oatmeal or yogurt mix-in, ice-cream topping, or even a mixed-drink base. Rhubarb is delicious with crystalized ginger in pies and tarts as well – it’s not just for strawberries anymore!

    • July 14, 2013 at 12:55 pm #

      Yes! I love compote, Molly. I think it’s a New England tradition. On the culinary side, I’ve even made rhubarb chicken which is not my favorite dish. So, I’ve been researching other things we can do with the leaves and stalk. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. July 14, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

    Use the leaves to mold stepping stones. Make rhubarb leather–add strawberries if you have them. Or mix rhubarb juice along with other fruit juices like pineapple and orange plus crushed strawberries or raspberries to make a fruit punch. Add cooked, sweetened rhubarb to plain yogurt and freeze in an ice cream maker. Make an upside-down cake with chunky cooked rhubarb instead of pineapple slices. Rhubarb’s the best and thanks to the cooler wet summer we’re having, it’s still producing! Yay!

  3. chris wells
    November 9, 2016 at 7:02 pm #

    Because of the high acid level in rhubarb leaves does anyone know whether they would be useful in lowering the ph level of my soil for my blueberry plants if used as a mulch.

  4. Michael James Caron
    June 4, 2017 at 11:14 am #

    How do you plant Rhubarb and what is the best soil for it?


  1. Rhubarb…ND State Weed or blessing indeed? | The St. Anne's Scoop - May 25, 2015

    […] rhubarb (leaves) can also be used in your compost pile as they break down quickly, according to another online source. That same article also suggests that rhubarb can be used as a pink hair dye. It also suggests that […]

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