{Food & Gardening} Rhubarb Compote

While reading old Classic Winnie the Pooh stories to my children, Rabbit was always discussing rhubarb in his garden and in his pies. My little gardeners didn’t know what it was, so I put it on the grocery list, and over the last few years rhubarb has woven itself into our kitchen for special occasions and summertime treats.  It doesn’t seem very popular in my neck of the woods (the East Coast of Florida, USA), so it is sometimes hard to find organic rhubarb, even in season.

Through most of the world rhubarb is considered a vegetable, however in 1947 a New York court decided it would be considered a fruit in the United States.  Tariffs on vegetables were higher than tariffs on fruits at the time. However, rhubarb is a vegetable as it is closely related to garden sorrel (a common perennial herb). My little gardeners sometimes mistake rhubarb for Swiss chard at the farmers markets, as they do have a similar appearance. However the leaves of rhubarb are toxic.  Field-grown rhubarb is typically harvested April to June, but seems to be available in grocery stores throughout the year due to hothouses (heated greenhouses).

For culinary uses, the fresh raw stalks of the plant are used.  My oldest likes to call it pink celery, as it does have a crisp similar to that of celery. Rhubarb stalks can vary in color from the commonly associated crimson red, to speckled light pink, and simply light green.  The color differences result from anthocyanins (water-soluble pigments), and vary according to both the rhubarb variety and the production technique.  The red rhubarb is most popular with consumers, but the light green stalks have the most robust flavor.

One of our favorite ways to use rhubarb is as a compote, which can be taken one step further for a delightful treat, Rhubarb Fool!  I’m not sure where these recipes originated from, as I’ve been making them from memory. They are pretty simple.  You can adjust measurements: 1 lb of rhubarb makes approx. 3 cups.

Rhubarb Compote


1 lb rhubarb, leaves removed, stalks cut into 1/2 inch pieces

¼ cup brown sugar, loosely packed

2 tbsp water

In a large saucepan combine rhubarb, brown sugar, and water, stirring to coat. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb is tender, about 5-7 minutes. Drain juices if you like. We like to leave the juices if we’re not going to make Rhubarb fool with it and refrigerate it for a few hours before serving.  This compote can be made ahead for up to 2 days.

My little gardeners love the smell of rhubarb when I am chopping it.  And we all love serving the compote over ice cream, but you can take it a step further…

Rhubarb Fool


3 cups organic whipping cream

1 cup Rhubarb Compote

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, whip cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold in rhubarb compote.

Yum! Anyone hungry yet?  Besides drizzled over vanilla ice cream, you can also use rhubarb compote: layered in custard, with granola and yogurt, baked over oatmeal, and poured over pound cake!  We have even added some leftover rhubarb compote to our smoothies!

Rhubarb is a great summertime treat, and it’s good for you too!  Rhubarb is a source of potassium and vitamin C and is very high in dietary fiber, vitamin K, calcium, magnesium and manganese.



The Wooden Bee


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  1. So, rhubarb tastes sweet? Why did I always think it was not sweet? This recipe sounds great and I love the picture of your daughter happily snacking away.

  2. Nice write up on this, I never liked rhubarb but your recipe sounds good!!

  3. Oh yummmmm!!!
    In my Nana’s house we used to get strawberry rhubarb pie and that was my favorite! Have not had it in many years.

    • Linda our local produce stand sometimes has strawberry rhubarb jam. It is really good too. I will have to try strawberry rhubarb pie sometime!

  4. Ooh my mouth is watering! And I was instantly taken back to when I was a kid and my mom used to make the most killer rhubarb strawberry pie. She’d likely have to alter stuff now that she’s gone on a vegan diet but I’m running it past her next time we get together (and stealing that recipe lol). Thanks for sharing this, I missed rhubarb & didn’t even know it until you posted this, Bee!

  5. I didn’t know rhubarb was good for you, too! I have some growing in my garden, I’m definitely going to cook with it some more this spring.
    Thanks for the compote recipe!

  6. You should try growing it- its so easy it’s almost as if it were a weed!

  7. Oh YUMMM!!! Growing up my Nannie (grandma) made Rhubarb Crisp. Oh my goodness, I have to find some rhubarb and make some to take to her. She is 93 and can no longer cook. This would bring a smile to her face. Thanks you for sharing & inspiring!!!!!!!

  8. That sounds yummmmmy!