Get ready for a slew of summer dessert posts! Right now, I’m inspired by all the fresh berries and gorgeous produce that’s in season now. This post in particular was inspired by my summers growing up in Southeast Alaska, where rhubarb grew like weeds in our backyard. Not much really grows in the leached out soils of Ketchikan, where the annual rainfall averages around 200 inches…yes, you heard me right. That’s 16 feet a year! But rhubarb, along with wide variety of wild berry bushes sprinkled through the rainforests, grows abundantly in the late spring and summer months. It grows best in cooler weather, so if you’re not from the Pacific Northwest or northern climates, you might be a stranger to rhubarb.
Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable with thick, celery-like stalks that are pinkish-red in color with broad green leaves sprouting from the top. The herbaceous plant is native to Siberia, but is now found widespread across the cooler regions of Europe and North America. Rhubarb is commonly mistaken as a fruit, but it is actually a close relative of garden sorrel, and is considered a vegetable. The stalks are the only edible part of the plant, as the leaves of rhubarb contain oxalic acid as well as poisonous glycosides.
Rhubarb has a long history of herbal usage. As one of the most widely used herbs in Chinese medicine, the roots are harvested and dried to use in a variety of teas, tonics and tinctures. Rhubarb has been used for a number of treatments including anticholesterolemic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitumor, aperient, astringent, cholagogue, demulcent, diuretic, laxative, purgative, stomachic and tonic. Here’s a quick look at its nutritional profile…
Nutritional Profile: Rhubarb
- Low calorie, low sugar, water-dense vegetable
- The stalks are rich in B Vitamins, such as folates, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, thiamin, and pantothenic acid
- Red colored stalks are high in Vitamin C and Vitamin A
- Trace amounts of calcium, iron and potassium
Rhubarb is not a vegetable I recommend eating raw! It is so bitter and fibrous that it’s nearly inedible unless cooked down with a little bit of sweetener. I chose to stew the rhubarb for the tarts with vanilla, citrus and raw honey to sweeten it. Once stewed, the rhubarb filling can be stored for up to 5 days in your fridge. We ended up pouring the leftover filling over top of some vegan vanilla bean ice cream. It was heaven. These tartlets would also be wonderful with a big scoop of your favorite dairy-free vanilla ice cream on the side. Just sayin…
VANILLA RHUBARB TARTLETS
WITH LEMON SHORTBREAD COOKIE CRUST
4 stalks rhubarb, sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 lemon, juice + zest
1 orange, juice + zest
¼ cup raw honey
1 vanilla bean (or 1 tbsp vanilla bean powder or extract)
To make the rhubarb filling, trim any leaves from the stalks and slice into 1-inch pieces. Add the rhubarb, citrus juice and zest, raw honey, and vanilla into a large pot. Turn on medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently while cooking for 10-15 minutes. The consistency will look like thick jam, with a few chunks of soft rhubarb remaining. Remove from heat and allow to cool while continuing to steep the vanilla with the filling. Remove vanilla bean before assembling tartlets.
Lemon Shortbread Cookie Crust
2 cups gluten-free oat flour
1 cup macadamia nuts
4 tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup raw honey
2 tbsp vanilla extract (or 1 tbsp vanilla bean powder)
1 tsp Himalayan pink salt (or your preferred sea salt)
2 tbsp golden flax meal
¼ cup water
In a food processor or high-speed blender, pulse the macadamia nuts into a fine powder. Add the oat flour and pulse until until well combined. Add the remainder of the ingredients and process until smooth. Press batter into tartlet pans. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 10-15 minutes, removing when crust is a light golden brown.
Note: If you would like to make this a raw vegan tart crust, place in your dehydrator and dehydrate for 12-14 hours on 110 degrees.
To assemble, remove your tartlet crusts from the oven or dehydrator while they’re still warm. Portion 3-4 tablespoons of rhubarb filling into each tartlet, smooth evenly. If your tarts have cooled, place them in the oven with the rhubarb filling to gently warm. Serve with a scoop of your favorite dairy-free vanilla bean ice cream or simply with a sprinkle of orange zest on top.
Makes 4 tartlets