What exactly is a rhubarb and is it a vegetable or a fruit? Those are the questions that popped into my head when I learned about the Rhubarb Festival and Tasting Tea coming up in Glasco, KS. What is so special about this plant that it has inspired towns and cities across the country to dedicate festivals in its name? I decided to do a little research to find out.
Rheum rhabarbarum, or commonly known as rhubarb, is a large, leafy plant that can grow two to three feet wide and tall. It is grown for its fibrous leaf stalks, which have a rich tart flavor. The yellow and red varieties are also grown as an ornamental plant. Rhubarb is easy to grow but needs cool weather to thrive. But the question remains, is it a fruit or a vegetable?
It’s a perennial vegetable! However, rhubarb is usually prepared and eaten much like a fruit in desserts and jams. Confusing, I know. When the rhubarb is prepared, only the stalks are consumed. The leaves contain a substance called oxalic acid crystals which are toxic and can result in poisoning. Yikes!
Rhubarb has many other uses, from medicinal to cosmetic. It has a positive and balancing effect upon the digestive system and is one of the most widely used herbs in Chinese medicine. Cosmetically, you can naturally lighten your hair with rhubarb! Rhubarb can be used to clean pots and pans and it can repel leaf eating insects! The fiber in rhubarb can also be added to handmade papers.
Songs, poetry and artwork has been dedicated to the wonderful plant, such as “The Rhubarb Tart Song”. Here's an excerpt from the song.
“I want another slice of rhubarb tart.
I want another lovely slice.
I’m not disparaging the blueberry pie, but rhubarb tart is oh so very nice.
A rhubarb what? A rhubarb tart!
A whatbarb tart? A rhubarb tart!
I want another slice of rhubarb tart!”
All in all, I believe this multi-use vegetable deserves all the credit that it’s receiving!
The Rhubarb Festival and Tasting Tea will take place Friday, June 1, 2018 at the Corner Store in Glasco. If you have a favorite Rhubarb dish, bring it to share with everyone. If you have any questions or need further information about this event, contact Glasco City Hall at 785-568-2705.