loukoumades isn’t sure about rhubarb. “Recipes talk about rhubarb being tangy, tart, zingy, whatever,” says loukoumades. “The times I’ve made it, it just tastes plain sour. And it turns to brown mush. I’ve tried it poached, as compote and in cake. If I add loads of sugar, it’s a bit less sour, but it’s still tasteless. If I add spices like cinnamon or ginger, that perks it up a bit, but really it just tastes of the spices.”
It might just not be for you, says Isolda. “Rhubarb cooks very quickly and really doesn’t retain its shape,” she says. “If you don’t like it, you don’t like it. There’s nothing wrong with not liking something everyone else thinks is wonderful.”
“But, since you say you want to be converted,” she goes on, “try looking up Persian recipes for savory dishes containing rhubarb. I used to have one for a stew that was quite good, but can’t find it anywhere. While I love sweet rhubarb dishes (try using it to replace the berries in a coffee cake recipe), I think it’s best when you put that sourness to advantage and use it to tenderize lamb or beef.” Agreed. Try CHOW’s Rhubarb-Braised Chicken Thighs.
The problem might be substandard rhubarb, though. “I usually make just a few pies a year from my own rhubarb plant,” says Bada Bing. “Once when I tried to make a pie from supermarket rhubarb, I was utterly disappointed. The problem was not tartness nor sweetness but sheer blandness. Those supermarket folks clearly knew how to get thick red stalks—almost cartoonishly attractive—but my smaller, greener stalks from my plant made a dramatically better pie.” visciole agrees: “To truly see if you like rhubarb or not you have to be sure it’s been recently harvested. I have my own plants and eating it fresh off the plant is an entirely different thing than eating it bought from a store where you have no idea how long it’s been sitting there.”