Rhubarb is one of those heralds of the harvest season in the Northeast. Technically a vegetable but often featured in dessert preparations, it’s typically preserved via canning (stewed, jammed) or freezing. But I’ve been waiting long and hard to get some of these stems dried up. So when I brought home my second armload of rhubarb, any and all desire to again make jam (because TRUST ME, there was!) was squashed and those chopped, succulent pieces of tangy goodness made their temporary pit-stop in my dehydrator.
What exactly does one do with dried rhubarb? I was initially inspired to dehydrate rhubarb for a chewy and sour snack, to eat straight from the cupboard or thrown in some trail mix. But I’ve found it really shines as an addition to my morning oatmeal, especially with a spoonful of homemade strawberry or rhubarb jam. It’s (almost) like you’re eating pie for breakfast, except with way more fiber and much less sugar and fat!
I suggest adding 1/4-1/2 cup dried rhubarb to a pot of “shortcut” steel cut oats. Bring about 1 1/4 cups water to a boil and add 1 cup of dry steel cut oats, cooking for about one minute. Turn off the heat, toss in the dried rhubarb, and transfer the par-cooked oatmeal into a glass or ceramic container; keep refrigerated until you are ready to heat it up (the whole container or just a scoop) with a little water or milk and a touch of fresh fruit or sweetener- be it jam, maple syrup, or honey.
Give the dish a protein boost with the addition of nuts or seeds; I personally love adding home-ground flaxseed to oatmeal, which gives it a pleasant, nutty flavor. 1 cup of dry oats roughly equates four standard serving sizes, but I pretty much always eat twice this amount per meal (as in 1/2 cup dry or 1+ cup cooked oats), so be sure to consider your personal appetite when cooking the oats in advance.
If local rhubarb is a pain to find in your area, you may be more successful in searching out its relative and invasive plant species Japanese Knotweed or its less common cousin, Giant Knotweed. We are just past its peak harvesting season in New England, but many of the shoots can still be found at their optimal harvest size- about 12-24 inches tall. On my last foraging adventure with Russ Cohen, he suggested seeking out fat stalks, about an inch thick, on roadsides and wooded areas to be used fresh as a substitute for rhubarb. Simply run your hand down the stalk until it feels woody; cut the stalk off above this point and trim off the leaves as well. Knotweed should be peeled to remove its stringy outer layer. Russ swears that his strawberry Japanese Knotweed pie is a real crowd pleaser, and that many claim to prefer it to rhubarb after trying it out. While I have not tried to dehydrate the plant, I’d be curious to see how it holds up as a dried good.
Makes about 1 1/2 pints
- about 3 lbs rhubarb, washed, trimmed, and chopped into 1/2″ pieces
Evenly distribute the prepped rhubarb pieces on dehydrator trays. Dehydrate at 135 degrees F until dry and chewy, between 7-9 hours (dehydration times vary across different devices). Transfer rhubarb pieces to an airtight container; store in a cool, dry, and dark location.