Field of Science

Is rhubarb a fruit or a vegetable?

 A reader wants to know, after all you make pies and jams out of rhubarb, so people use it like a fruit.  Ah, but rhubarb is most definitely a leaf stalk, a petiole.  So it is clearly a vegetative part of the plant, not a flower or fruit.  The broad leaf itself is toxic.  The leaf stalk of rhubarb has a tart/sweet taste, and it does make a wonderful pie even if a bit juicy and somewhat prone to cooking over.  One famous weekend while visiting Dr. Chips Mrs. Phactor made a wonderful rhubarb pie, and it disappeared so quickly that she made two more pies.  The varieties presently in favor have a red epidermis on the petiole, so the pies come out reddish in color, but the taste of the older green stalked rhubarb is not any different in taste although some people think the red sweeter, and perhaps it has been improved along the way.  In pioneer days, people would always bring hunks of rhubarb to a house warming or a wedding reception to gift the new bride with "pie plant".  It is an almost foolproof plant that anybody can grow, it is a member of the smart weed family.

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