Sometimes healthy eating is just a matter of getting more connected to your food source. Becoming familiar with the seasonality of regional edible plants allows you to access healthy foods at the peak of their ripeness. Nutrition and Wellness Elevated develops a monthly blog post featuring an edible plant that is in harvesting season in Colorado that month. Be sure to compare this to your state’s seasonal crop calendar.
Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable that grows well across most of the country and, depending on your elevation, is available in Colorado anytime from May through September. The stalks of the plant are the edible portion and should be harvested when they are crisp and thick. To harvest, cut the stalk of the plant from its base and remove the leaf. The rhubarb leaf should never be eaten because it is very high in oxalic acid, which causes illness in humans with excessive ingestion. When the plant is exposed to extremely cold temperatures this toxic acid may travel into the stalks so be sure to trim leaves prior to refrigerated storage. While rhubarb is a summer staple, it may also be frozen and enjoyed year round.
Rhubarb is a tart vegetable and is often paired with sweeter fruits in desserts like pie. Like most vegetables, rhubarb is low in calories and high in fiber and, as such, provides a weight loss friendly dessert type when sugar is used sparingly. Rhubarb is a plant based alternative to animal sources of calcium and vitamin K, which support healthy bones. The vegetable is also rich in many antioxidant nutrients such as vitamins C and A which are useful in free radical clearance and cancer prevention. Who wouldn’t love a dessert food that has so many benefits? Rhubarb also has more uses than just desserts and I encourage you to try it in other dishes. It even provides a yummy sweet-n-sour salad topping, check out my spin on a Waldorf Salad in my Rhubarb Summer Salad.