Red vs. Green Rhubarb: How to Choose Rhubarb the Right Way

If you’re new to cooking with rhubarb, it can be a little confusing to shop for it. Here, we’ll guide you through choosing rhubarb in the produce aisle, farmers market or your own backyard.

When spring and summer roll around, it’s officially rhubarb season! From sweet rhubarb pie to savory rhubarb BBQ, there are a ton of ways to enjoy these tart stalks. But if you’re new to cooking or growing rhubarb, selecting ripe stalks can be a little confusing when your choices are red, green and somewhere in between. We’ll explain the taste difference between red and green rhubarb, plus other shopping must-know information.

Love rhubarb? Here are dozens of sweet and savory ways to eat it.

Red vs. Green Rhubarb: What’s the Difference?

Believe it or not, there’s no significant flavor difference between red and green rhubarb. Instead, rhubarb’s color actually indicates the variety. There are six common types of rhubarb, according to the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Master Gardener Program, which range between bright red, soft green and speckled stalks.

When it comes to choosing between different color stalks, think more about how the rhubarb will be used, rather than how sweet you want it to be. For example, if you’re planning on making a rhubarb jelly or an open-face tart, you might want to go with bright red stalks for a rosy hue. On the other hand, if the rhubarb is going to be fairly well hidden in your recipe, like with these frosted rhubarb bars or a double-crust pie, feel free to use speckled or green rhubarb. Did you know you can store your stalks in the freezer? Learn how to freeze rhubarb.

What to Look for When Buying Rhubarb

While color isn’t an indication of ripeness or sweetness, there are a few things to look out for when shopping for rhubarb at a grocery store or farmers market. First, make sure that the stalks are firm, unbent and bruise free. They should also have a slight sheen to them. If the stalks still have leaves attached, check that they haven’t wilted or started to rot. By the way, be sure you remove and throw away rhubarb leaves before cooking.

What to Look for When Harvesting Rhubarb

When it comes to deciding when to pick homegrown rhubarb, you’ll also want to look out for firm stalks. They should be growing upright and at least 10 inches long. To harvest, pull and twist the stalks instead of cutting them off with a knife. Then give it a good cleaning and cut off the leaves and ends. Read more on how to harvest rhubarb.

Now that you know how to pick rhubarb stalks, it’s time to get cooking. Start with some of our favorite rhubarb recipes.

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Caroline Stanko
As Editor, Caroline writes and edits all things food-related and helps produce videos for Taste of Home. When she’s not at her desk, you can probably find Caroline cooking up a feast, planning her next trip abroad or daydreaming about her golden retriever, Mac.