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Gardening for Beginners: Peeling Rhubarb?

One of the best things about growing rhubarb is probably the red vibrant color. But what happens when you start peeling rhubarb? Should you?

Ett knippe med rabarberstjälkar i vacker rosaröd färg. Peeling rhubarb, beautiful red/pink rhubarb stalks.

I'm writing about peeling rhubarb today in my series about gardening for beginners.


I start harvesting the first rhubarb in my garden already in April. This early rhubarb is called forced rhubarb, with very tender and crispy stalks. It's of course the same type of rhubarb but it's grown in a particular way which changes the structure of the plant. Watch the video below to learn more. I can't imagine that anyone feels the need to peel these stalks. But I know that people might feel differently about the rhubarb we harvest now in summer. This article in my series about gardening for beginners is about just that, if we should peel our homegrown rhubarb before eating it.


More summer inspiration: A beautiful Swedish cottage garden


Peeling rhubarb?

The rhubarb I harvest during summer is generally a bit more sturdy than the early rhubarb. And the red outer layer seems very thick. So, I don't blame you if your first reaction is to peel it.

But should you? In my opinion, I don't think you should. I only do it if my rhubarb was affected by pests and looks unpleasant. Otherwise, I never peel rhubarb.

You don't even need to consider it if you plan on using the rhubarb to make beverages or rhubarb curd, since you can't see the stalks themselves afterwards of course.


My rhubarb recipes:
Simple rhubarb and vanilla jam
My homemade rhubarb curd
Rhubarb juice
Spicy rhubarb sauce


Slice the rhubarb

When I prepare my rhubarb, I always try to cut it into thin slices. These thinly cut unpeeled rhubarb slices go great in everything from jam and marmalade to rhubarb crumble. Cutting the rhubarb so thin actually makes it feel less stringy too.

The one thing that really makes me feel so strongly about not peeling rhubarb is of course the color. A lot of the pigment is actually located in the peel. And if you remove it, the rhubarb is going to look a lot more pale.

When you start growing rhubarb at home, you want to get the right variety for you. There are plenty of options in the plant nurseries (I'm going to write more about which ones I have in my garden soon), with beautiful red stalks. It's so fun! I know that a lot of gardens already have a few older rhubarb plants sitting around. Often older varieties too, of course. I would however recommend adding a few newer varieties too. Many of the newer varieties contain a smaller amount of oxalic acid than the older ones too. This is a great solution if you tend to get stomach issues after eating rhubarb.


More about growing and peeling rhubarb:
Harvesting forced rhubarb
Growing rhubarb from seed


So, in conclusion: You don't have to peel rhubarb before eating it. Of course, you can if you want to. But doing it means that some of the lovely red flavor is going to disappear. I usually just prepare rhubarb by rinsing it and then cutting it into thin slices!

/Sara Bäckmo


11. June 2020