There are few things in this world that I love more that rhubarb. It’s a funny looking fruit, with huge leaves and pinky-green stalks, that reminds me of celery. Often overlooked unless you are a fan of Strawberry-Rhubarb pies and jams, it has a unique flavor that is not quite sweet and pretty tart in it’s raw state.
If you are not familiar with rhubarb, then this recipe is a great place to start. Not only do you get an amazing Simple Syrup to add to summery drinks but you are left with a beautiful bowl of Rhubarb Compote that is perfect for spreading on toast or adding to your favorite dessert.
Prime rhubarb season runs from April through late June. I’m lucky because my parents live in northern Pennsylvania and have a HUGE rhubarb patch in their garden. We get to pick and eat fresh rhubarb all summer long! If you do not have a garden with rhubarb, fear not! I regularly find it at my local Whole Foods, at at my neighborhood supermarket and even some farmers markets.
Tips for Picking and Storing Rhubarb:
- Much like celery, you want to look for stalks that are firm and crisp. Make sure they are not bruised or damaged.
- If you are buying at a farmers market and the leaves are attached, make sure they are full of color and not browning or wilting.
- If you grow your own rhubarb, break stalks off at the bottom, close to the base of the plant and discard the leaves .
- Never eat the leaves. They are actually toxic when digested so keep away from small children and pets.
- The color of rhubarb varies from green to pinkish-red. Unlike other fruit, the color variations do not indicate levels of sweetness. There are only slight variations in flavor so don’t worry if you have a rainbow of colors in your mix.
- Always wash stalks right before using. Washing stalks before refrigerating will make them turn limp and soggy.
Tips for making Rhubarb Simple Syrup:
- Make sure to dissolve all the sugar in warm water before adding any of the other ingredients.
- When the fruit cooks it will break down and get stringy. Try not to mash it up too much with your spoon while stirring.
- Don’t worry if you do not get all the liquid out of the Rhubarb Compote mixture at the end. I actually prefer to leave a little bit of the syrup in the fruit for other recipes. It makes a great topping for ice cream this way.