Vibrant pink stalks of rhubarb are one of the first signs of spring in many parts of the country, and the one-two punch of striking color and tart flavor make for an irresistible combination. Think twice about biting into a raw stalk, though—in most cases, tart is really a euphemism for straight-up sour. (You can have fun using raw stalks to make homemade sour straws if your kids love aggressively tart candy like Sour Patch Kids.)
First things first: The green leaves of rhubarb are toxic, so be sure to discard them if they’re not already removed when you buy them. Once that’s out of the way, have your Little Sous spot the smallest and reddest stalks available—they’re more tender and have more fruit flavor than the thick, lighter-hued stalks.
A classic rhubarb pie is a fantastic place to start. Your kitchen helper can cut the flour and shortening together into coarse pieces with a fork, sprinkle in water until it holds together, and roll out the resulting dough in this go-to recipe. If crust feels a bit fussy, opt for an apple rhubarb crumble that requires little more than smooshing together flour, oats, sugar, salt, and butter to sprinkle over fresh fruit.
If your family leans more toward frozen dessert than the baked variety, churn up some strawberry rhubarb ice cream, or make a simple, two-ingredient rhubarb compote to spoon over a scoop of vanilla. Rhubarb granita is also a fun, gadget-less project that will send kids running to the freezer to take turns scraping the cool treat every 30 minutes for sweet-tart slushies.
Though it’s often considered a fruit, rhubarb is technically a vegetable—and it certainly isn’t only for sweets. Instead of serving pork chops with applesauce, whip up a quick savory rhubarb sauce, have your Little Sous brush baked ribs with rhubarb barbecue sauce, or go raw with a crunchy rhubarb cucumber salsa over chicken thighs. This spring, tart is in.
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