Move over lemonade, there’s a new summer libation in town! Meet the Raw Rhubarb Quencher. Quick, simple, a little tart and incredibly refreshing.
Rhubarb is one of my favorite spring vegetables. It is easy to grow, one of the first ready for harvest in the spring and provides ample stalks (called petioles) throughout the summer. As a kid I used to eat the tart stacks raw, right off the plant (yes, I was a bit adventurous). It was one of the few things we could grow that the moose wouldn’t eat. As it turns out, rhubarb stalks dipped in sugar are eaten in western Finland, Norway and Iceland. Chilean rhubarb, which is a distant relative, is often sold with dried chili powder or salt. 
As you can see, while the classic strawberry-rhubarb combo will always impress, rhubarb lends itself well to savory and sweet applications alike. Don’t be intimidated by this often passed-up spring veg! Aside from being versatile and widely available, rhubarb also packs a nutritional punch.
Rhubarb has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat digestive ailments for years. It is a low-calorie food—mostly water and fiber—that contains rheosmin, which has been shown to stabilize blood sugar and help manage obesity. Crimson stalks contain betalains (also found in beets in large quantities) that protect cells from damage and aid in liver detoxification. Even better, rhubarb is rich in vitamin K, for healthy bones and brain protection; vitamin C for a healthy immune system; vitamin A for healthy skin and eyes; and manganese for energy metabolism, thyroid function and blood sugar control.
I Like it Raw
In most preparations rhubarb is cooked down with lots of sugar, which don’t get me wrong, is pretty darn tasty in it’s own right. Unfortunately the virtues of rhubarb can quickly be undone when doused in sugar and the heat sensitive nutrients—like vitamin C—are diminished during the cooking process. This raw ruby refresher, on the other hand, preserves the delicate nutrients and requires less sweetening. Heck, if you’re hardcore you could forgo the sweetener altogether! Although I much prefer a little sweetness with the tart kick of rhubarb. I’ll let you decide.
A Word of Caution
The leaves contain a high amount of oxalic acid and are considered poisonous. Compost the leaves or use them in the garden as an organic insecticide.
What’s your favorite way to use rhubarb? Share in the comments below!
 Madison, Deborah. Vegetable Literacy. 10 Speed Press, New York. 2013 Print.