Using Wild Rhubarb

Now is a wonderful time to forage some wild rhubarb – but how can you use it? This weeks post investigates many ways to use this wild vegetable.

Wild rhubarb in the Southwest is in a genus called Rumex.  This tasty wild plant that only shows its leaves in late winter in the Southwest.   Rumex hymenosepalus is the most common species in the area, often called wild rhubarb, canaigre, hierba colorada, Arizona dock, tanners dock, or ganagra. Here is our post on foraging the plant.

Store Bought Rhubarb – Fruit or Vegetable?

Most of us think of rhubarb as a vegetable.    We eat the leaf stalks (petioles) of the plant, a vegetative, non-fruiting part the plant.    So why even wonder if it is fruit or vegetable?    Because as far as United States law is concerned, rhubarb is a fruit.

In 1947 a New York court decided that since it was used primarily as a fruit, it should be regulated as a fruit for the purposes of tariffs and duties.  This meant it was now cheaper to import into the state (from neighboring states) because tariffs on fruit are lower than those on vegetables.


How to Use Wild Rhubarb

Come to think of it, we do tend to use rhubarb as a fruit, adding sugar and heat and mellowing the tart flavor into something more fruity – but why limit yourself by the laws of the land?    Rhubarb can be used as a vegetable instead of a fruit – and in many delightful ways.

Canaigre Pie

Well duh. (As they say.) Don’t have enough for a pie? Here are some other uses.

Add to Salad

Finely dice some wild rhubarb and add it to a garden salad.    The bright red of the stalks is a colorful contrast to the greens in your salad.    It tastes somewhat like the green known as sorrel, or to the oxalis we wrote about during St. Patrick’s Day week.

Some of the same cautions about oxalic acid apply, since this vegetable is high in oxalates. Here is our page about Savor Oxalates Safely.


Wild Rhubarb Salsa

Have you tried a wild rhubarb salsa?    Dig out our Mango Salsa recipe and add some wild rhubarb in place of some of the mango.    The tart rhubarb is an excellent counterpoint to the sweet mango.    Leave out the peppers if you don’t like the heat, it still tastes yummy with tortilla chips.

Savory Soup

I enjoy a touch of wild rhubarb in soup.    After a day working outdoors around the homestead, you need to replenish your electrolytes, and a cup of soup will help.    Make some miso soup with short curls of rhubarb instead of scallions.    Delightful!

Rhubarb & Sausage Soup

Hard to believe but this cainagrie is tasty in sausage stew.   Use this sausage soup recipe, but substitute chopped rhubarb for one of the potatoes.  Skip the beans.


Canaigre Paleta

Paleta is a type of Mexican popsickle.  I adore them.  This year, I plan to can some canaigre and make me some canaigre paletas once it gets warmer.  I found this image on a free picture site ( and there is no linked recipe so I can’t share more information. Yet!


Rhubarb Libation

Dice rhubarb, add a pinch of cinnamon, a dash a slice of fresh ginger, and a shot of spiced rum. Delightful either hot or cold, and a great way to end the day.  Please savor alcohol responsibly.

There are many ways to use this great vegetable/fruit. Forage away – and please tell us your favorite way to use this wild vegetable.

Looking Back in Time

I find myself wondering if Father Kino was ever served wild rhubarb.  I’ll bet he was, but he very rarely mentioned a single thing he ate. Read more about his life here in the Southwest in this book:

soule-kino-southwestThe last few copies of this out-of-print award winning Southwestern book are now for sale. Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today   The review says:  “Award-winning garden writer Dr. Jacqueline A. Soule has pulled together a fascinating book on the life of Father Eusebio Francisco Kino and some of the plants that he brought to Southern Arizona and northwestern Sonora, and area called the Pimeria Alta.”

A steal at only $20!  This link is to our sales site. The profits from the sale go to the local Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute.  We hope you will help support this great Southwest non-profit.


Legal Notes

© Article copyright Savor the Southwest // Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. You must ask permission to republish an entire blog post or article. Okay to use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit. You must include a link back to the original post on our site. No stealing photos.


The authors of this website have researched the edibility of the materials we discuss, however, humans vary in their ability to tolerate different foods, drinks, and herbs. Individuals consuming flowers, plants, animals or derivatives mentioned in this blog do so entirely at their own risk. The authors on this site cannot be held responsible for any adverse reaction. In case of doubt please consult your medical practitioner.

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