rhubarb stem and leaves from the garden

Technically, rhubarb is a vegetable, but it’s eaten as a fruit and is known as the pie plant. (Yes, rhubarb suffers from an identity crisis.) We don’t care what it’s called. We simply love it.Cooked with sugar and a touch of vanilla, it’s the springtime equivalent of applesauce. Tossed with strawberries and cooked, it can’t be beaten. Maybe we’re enamored with rhubarb because it’s one of the first things to appear in our spring garden after a winter of root vegetables. (P.S. Don’t eat the leaves; they’re toxic.)

But cooked rhubarb can be pretty ugly. Rhubarb breaks down pretty quickly under heat. There’s only a split second between tender pretty pink pieces and drab green mush. But we’ve discovered a way in which it can look pretty, but still be fully cooked. This is not your grandmother’s mush (though that was pretty good too).

We know that not everyone likes rhubarb. But not everyone has given it a fair shake either. There are as many ways to prepare rhubarb as there are many fruits. So instead of writing off rhubarb after one mouthful of gloppy pie, we’re asking you to give rhubarb one more chance. Just one.


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups rhubarb pieces (1/2 inch)
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • 2 grinds black pepper

Additional Information

  • Cook Time: 30m


In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and ½ cup water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar; watch carefully so as not to burn or boil over. Once the sugar is completely dissolved and the syrup is simmering, remove from the heat and immediately stir in the rhubarb, orange zest, and pepper.

Let cool to room temperature. If the rhubarb hasn’t cooked enough in the cooling simple syrup, reheat to simmering for 1 minute at a time-no longer. Then allow to cool, and taste again. Do not overcook…rhubarb pieces will quickly fall apart.


Use 3 tablespoons of Cointreau instead of grated orange zest.

This recipe can be found in our Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook.

by Josh and Brent

Reader Comments

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Tamara Walsh

When I was a kid (in Massachusetts), we had a rhubarb patch in the yard that would appear every spring. I would break it off and eat it right there, no sugar or anything. Loved it. My mother made rhubarb pies – no strawberries – I loved those too.


I have a special vintage footed dish which is only to be used for rhubarb. It matches my mom’s, my aunt’s, and the one my grandma had. This would be perfect in it.