Does Rhubarb Go Bad?
Rhubarb makes a delicious pie and jam. It is also often served with meat dishes as a condiment if prepared in wine, vinegar, and sugar. These pink stalks compliment steaks, pork, and chicken dishes beautifully.
There is so much you can do with rhubarb. But if you continually postpone cooking with this not so ordinary vegetable, you will eventually find it softened and wilted.
Rhubarb will go bad even faster if you don’t know how to store it properly. But before we get into the storage conditions, it is important to know how to pick the best and the freshest rhubarb as this is ultimately what decides the longevity of this vegetable once you bring it home.
Here are a few simple rules to follow when buying rhubarb.
- Pick the crispiest stalks. Buying wilted rhubarb is certainly not a good idea.
Look for stalks that are firm yet tender and delicate. Rhubarb stalks are similar to celery stalks. You don’t need the woody ones.
Don’t buy the rhubarb if the stalks are too wide. This means that the rhubarb is not young. For young rhubarb, the stalks shouldn’t be wider than two inches.
As for the color, it doesn’t have much to do with the taste as the pinky color of the stem largely depends on where the rhubarb has been cultivated. Rhubarb that comes from the hothouse always has a brighter pink-red color compared to the rhubarb grown in the open fields.
Once you learn how to pick the best rhubarb, it is time to learn all about the proper storage conditions you should provide in order to maximize its the shelf life.
How to Store Rhubarb?
Depending on how soon you are planning to use the rhubarb stalks, you can choose between storing rhubarb at room temperature and in the fridge.
In either case, make sure to remove the leaves before storing the rhubarb. Rhubarb leaves are toxic which is why it is recommended to remove them as soon as you bring the stalks home.
Rhubarb stalks often come trimmed. If the rhubarb you have bought isn’t trimmed, trim it yourself before storing.
In general, there are two ways to store rhubarb.
At Room Temperature
Leaving rhubarb at room temperature is not the best storage conditions you can provide for this vegetable. But it is acceptable if you are going to make a rhubarb pie within a day or two.
The key rule to remember when storing rhubarb at room temperature is that you shouldn’t wrap it tightly in a plastic bag or plastic paper. Leave the stalks loosely covered so that air gets to the stalks.
If you wrap the stalks tightly, moisture will accumulate in the bag and the stalks will quickly go bad as a result of ideal conditions for bacterial growth.
Keep the stalks out of direct sunlight and heat sources. Make sure water doesn’t get into the bag or bowl with the rhubarb stalks otherwise they may get moldy soon.
In the Fridge
The fridge is the recommended storage area for rhubarb. But to make it work, you should know how to do it right.
First off, you should never wash the rhubarb before storing it in the fridge. Doing this significantly shortens the shelf life of the stalks. Secondly, you should keep the stalks in bag left loosely open. Alternatively, you can make some holes in the bag to provide air circulation.
Keeping rhubarb tightly wrapped will cause it to become overly ripe. Rhubarb, like many other fruits and vegetables, produces the ‘ripening hormone’ – ethylene gas. If you don’t let this gas escape, the stalks will get too ripe. If ripe rhubarb stalks are what you are looking for, keep them in an airtight container.
How Long Does Rhubarb Last?
Rhubarb stored at room temperature doesn’t have a long shelf life especially if you are not good at picking fresh and firm rhubarb stalks.
Rhubarb will last around 4 days at room temperature. If you have managed to buy the best quality rhubarb from the refrigerated section of the supermarket, you may be able to keep it for up to a week.
To get the most flavor out of rhubarb stored at room temperature, use it within the first few days of buying it.
Storing rhubarb in the fridge will give you enough time to think of a recipe you want to use these pink stalks in.
Rhubarb that has been stored in the fridge properly has a shelf life of 14 to 21 days.
Can You Freeze Rhubarb?
If you have bought too much rhubarb and don’t know what to do with it, freeze it for later use.
Freezing rhubarb is easy if you follow the instructions.
1.First off, trim the rhubarb and remove the leaves.
2.Wash the stalks and cut them if needed. Depending on the size of the container or bag you will be freezing the rhubarb in, you can cut the stalks into your desired size cubes.
3.Freeze the rhubarb first on a baking tray and only then transfer the stalks into a bag or a container. Doing this will prevent the pieces from sticking to each other.
4.When using a zip-top bag, make sure to squeeze out the excess air.
5.Label the container/ bag with the date and use within 6 to 12 months. It is best to use the rhubarb within the first few months of having it in the freezer.
You can blanch the stalks before freezing. While this step is optional, it does prevent the stalks from losing their beautiful pink color. Blanched rhubarb also retains its flavor better. You can also cook the rhubarb all the way through before freezing it but keep in mind that once defrosted cooked rhubarb easily loses its integrity.
To defrost rhubarb, let the frozen stalks sit in the fridge for a few hours. Don’t touch the half-defrosted rhubarb as you will damage the pieces.
Freezing Rhubarb in Sugar
If sugar intake is not something you worry about, you can try freezing rhubarb packed in sugar.
To do this, add one part sugar to 4 parts of rhubarb. Let the rhubarb sit in sugar until the latter dissolves. Freeze the sugar-coated rhubarb in freezer bags.
Signs That Rhubarb Has Gone Bad
The first sign to tell you that it is time to discard the red stalks is their mushy texture. Good rhubarb should be firm and crunchy. If the rhubarb is soft, it is either overripe or too old.
If you see dark spots on the stalks, discard them. A few small spots can be cut out. But if the stalks are largely spotted, toss the rhubarb out.
It is common for rhubarb to get moldy if it is old or has been exposed to humidity and moisture. We all know by now that it is always best to err on the safe side and discard moldy food rather than try to cut off the bad parts and use the rest.
Lastly, if the stalks have developed an off-putting odor, discard them.]]>