The color of rhubarb: does the amount of red on the rhubarb matter?

On Monday I spied the first rhubarb of the season at my local farmer's market. It was pretty much all green though -- no red. And that made me hesitate to buy it. It got me thinking...

Does the appearance of the red affect the flavor? And regardless of whether it does or not, what brings on/brings out the red? Maturity? Soil acidity? variety of rhubarb? Phase of the moon? Thanks!

  • Posted by: Peter
  • April 27, 2011
  • 39981 views
  • 7 Comments

7 Comments

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fiveandspice
fiveandspice April 27, 2011

Ooh, interesting question. I've always assumed it was an indication of stalk ripeness/maturity because in my experience greener stalks have been a lot more acidic and the redder ones were a bit less caustic. But now you've got me wondering how sure I am about that...I hope somebody out there knows!

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nutcakes
nutcakes April 27, 2011

I refer you to the Rhubarb Compendium, a handy site I've consulted before. Seems to be a vareital trait:
http://www.rhubarbinfo.com/maincontents

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Peter
Peter April 27, 2011

Nutcakes, thanks for the link. In looking at that site this seems to be the relevant paragraph (which is on this page: http://www.rhubarbinfo.com/varieties ):

"A deep red petiole is the more popular among consumers, but these plants are often accompanied by poor growth and yield. Green varieties are often much more productive. Consumers also often assume the red stemmed rhubarb is sweeter than other colors but color and sweetness are not necessarily related. The Victoria variety, which is probably the greenest variety, can produce some very sweet stems."

So, what is everyone's anecdotal experience? Does the color have little to do with flavor? Do people prefer red just 'cause it's prettier?

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mainecook61
mainecook61 April 27, 2011

Some varieties of rhubarb have been bred to emphasize the red trait (seed catalogs often mention it as a selling point) as the color red is seen as more appetizing than green. From my (rather lengthy) experience with rhubarb, I can tell you that color has very little to do with sweetness and flavor. The thriving type I grow seems be be a happy balance of red and green, but I no longer recall the variety. I think color matters little; any rhubarb's pretty astringent all by itself. (Can you imagine a raw rhubarb sweetness tasting? Blecch.)

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mrslarkin
mrslarkin April 27, 2011

Although the red color is more desirable, I've never noticed a difference in the taste between red and green rhubarb.

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hardlikearmour
hardlikearmour April 27, 2011

When I was a kid we'd eat raw rhubarb stalks, and we loved them. If you ever want to try something fun, you should pick up some "miracle fruit" and do some "taste tripping." Rhubarb is a great one to try when your tastebuds are messed up by the miracle fruit.

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SeaJambon
SeaJambon April 27, 2011

The only time it matters is when you are making something where the color is an important part of the overall result -- so, rhubarb sauce -- pink is good; pie -- pretty hidden, not quite as important; jelly (a total favorite!) -- pink is essential. If you have "really pink" in your jelly, it is actually a beautiful jewel tone. Flavor wise -- little to no difference. We are a rhubarb loving household!

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