Rhubarb is for Fools

chopped rhubarb

I’m tired of eating sturdy root vegetables and knocking off the shoots from potatoes before I use them and crave sweet baby carrots and tiny globes of deep coloured beetroot, crisp sugar snap peas and earthy new potatoes all freshly picked from the garden. Alas, they are all still weeks away from harvest and the only things we can pick from the garden this week are perennial herbs (though I seem to have unknowingly killed off most of my mint, which I thought was a fairly indestructible plant), asparagus and rhubarb. The cold weather meant the asparagus was very late this year so while in a normal year I’m beginning by now to have had my fill, this year it’s still a treat to nip out to the garden to cut the spears and have them on the table within minutes.

rhubarb root scrubbed
The rhubarb has grown particularly well this year, partly I suspect because in the autumn I lifted, divided and replanted some of the crowns. This was not in pursuit of horticultural excellence but because I wanted to try dyeing with rhubarb root, which you can see in the photo above. It was no great surprise that the wool came out beige, though it was a rich, sunset tinted beige rather than a washed out yellow beige. Honestly, until I started natural dyeing, I didn’t appreciate how many shades of beige you can achieve. But I digress …

Rhubarb kicks off the fruit season (even though I know that technically it’s a vegetable) and is perfect for late spring when the weather can be a little variable. On cool days we eat rhubarb crumble with custard and when the sun shines we make ice cream sundaes with layers of oven baked rhubarb, ice-cream and crushed gingernuts or meringues.

But surely the best way to eat rhubarb is in a fool. Are you a lover of a cream, yoghurt or custard fool? I’ve seen recipes for Rhubarb Fool made with yoghurt (isn’t that called Rhubarb Yoghurt?), with custard (too much faff) and any combination of cream, yoghurt and custard. Following my normal mantra of “take the easy option” I make my fools by folding fruit into whipped cream. However, adding a dollop or two of Greek yoghurt to a rhubarb fool gives a little edge of sourness, that I like, though I wouldn’t add it to a strawberry or raspberry Fool. Sometimes I add a little orange zest or stem ginger to the rhubarb, but mostly I leave it plain.


Make rhubarb fool by tossing 400g chopped rhubarb with 3 – 4 tablespoons of sugar in an ovenproof dish, lightly cover the dish with aluminium foil and bake in the oven at 200C for about 15 – 20 minutes until it’s soft and sitting in a pool of liquid. Put a sieve above a bowl and press the rhubarb into the sieve to remove as much liquid as you can. I don’t like a fool made with puree but I don’t want whole pieces of fruit either, so press as hard as you need to get your desired texture. Save the juice and leave the rhubarb to cool. Whip 300ml double cream until it’s floppy, fold in 3 tablespoons of Greek yoghurt with the drained rhubarb and chill in the fridge for an hour or so. I like to reduce the juice a little, by boiling it in a small pan, to make a syrup to pour over the fool that makes it look less anaemic.

Rhubarb Pastries

Yesterday, we ate Rhubarb Pastries, which are also a pretty good way to use rhubarb. I had half a batch of Nigella’s Processor Danish Pastry left after making a trayful of Schnecken (both recipes from How to Be a Domestic Goddess) and as I also had some spare rhubarb, it was but a small step to combining them with a spoonful of crème patisserie to make Rhubarb Pastries. Tis true that they are not as satisfyingly sweet and delicious as the shnecken, but they are light and fruity with a little richness from the crème patisserie. They also make a better photograph than a bowlful of pale rhubarb fool.

Should you have a garden where the canopy of rhubarb leaves is growing ever thicker, no matter how many sticks you pull each day, you might also like to try some of these other ways with rhubarb, including Rhubarb Bitters, Rhubarb Flatbread, Rhubarb Jelly and Rhubarb cooked in Strawberry Gin.

Are you a lover of rhubarb? Or does is it set your teeth on edge?

40 thoughts on “Rhubarb is for Fools

  1. Love rhubarb! Have been making rhubarb cakes and was just thinking about fools. Must try one, but the strawberries and peaches are now in the shop! Grow our own rhubarb though.

    1. Rhubarb cakes! What an excellent idea. I shall look out my recipe tomorrow. The fruit farms around here have just opened for strawberries so I shall be unable to resist going to pick a few.

    1. Your cordial obviously isn’t the same as ours! We make cordial with fruit and sugar to give to children to drink. Yours sounds rather more exciting.

  2. I love Rhubarb. We just planted some this year, so won’t be able to harvest a crop for eating until next year. I do love a rhubarb crumble, not made a rhubarb fool but will need to give it a go!

  3. I love rhubarb!! I would grow a lot more if we had the space. I make a fool with stewed rhubarb – no added water, just a smidge of sugar – whipped cream and – dare I admit it – a tub of ready made custard. Delicious!!

  4. I’ve have been made to feel less than a domestic goddess this week by the mention of the fact that there has been no rhubarb crumble for a while. Now, if He Who Mows had NOT let the mower run amok over the rhubarb patch perhaps it would be a different story?

      1. Thank you, there is also a hazelnut rhubarb crisp that is an easy dessert for a busy farmer’s wife and feeds a crowd. I am looking for a rhubarb shrub recipe. My mom would make a great rhubarb syrup that we used in summer drinks.

  5. I love rhubarb. Every year, I make strawberry-rhubarb jam. This year I added some orange to that. As for your dyeing ventures, I remember a dinner in New York City when I leaned across the table toward my companion and asked “Ho many shades of black ARE there?”

    1. Rhubarb on a buttermilk cake sounds delicious. I don’t love rhubarb enough to eat it for breakfast, though maybe I should try it with my porridge.

  6. cee-rap! i feel terrible for saying that i thought your post was about people growing rhubarb when it is for fools. i have grown rhubarb in the past, i have tried to make anything and everything rhubarb and i just have to admit – i hate the stuff. can’t stand it actually. and all of your commenters love rhubarb and so do you. i feel like a gnat the should be swatted. i HATE rhubarb…and i finally thought i had found someone else who hated it too, based on your title. ack. i will just go off and sit alone with my hate of the rhubarb.

    really people…the stuff is ghastly. no amount of sugar or strawberries can make it pallatable. why not use the rhubarb space in your garden for growing things that are delicious – like potatoes, amaranth, green beans, peas, peppers or gawd forgive – tomatoes?>!?!?!??!

    sorry to be such a downer as a first time commenter.

    1. You really don’t like rhubarb! I welcome it in the garden because it grows with very little effort on my part and looks pretty even when it’s falling apart in autumn.
      It’s a good job we aren’t all the same isn’t it?

  7. Rhubarb is very popular in our house too – my husband just cooks it in the microwave to have on his breakfast cereal, but I like making a rhubarb sponge, which is also good with a few strawberries thrown in. I am one of those people whose teeth feel uncomfortable after eating it, but I love the flavour!

    1. Cooking rhubarb with strawberries is supposed to reduce the ‘furry’ feeling on your teeth. Cooking it in sloe gin or strawberry works too. Who knows, maybe any kind of gin works.

  8. Love this post with ideas for rhubarb Anne. Not sure why, but our rhubarb was really thin and pale, despite supposedly being the Sydney Crimson variety. Perhaps I should separate mine out too and see if it does better next year… A rhubarb fool with ‘floppy cream’ sounds perfect! Intrigued about the Schnecken… am off to find it in my book right now.

    1. I have two varieties – one is thin and pale and the other grows as thick as my wrist. Neither of them are particularly red, which is a bit of a disappointment.

  9. Anne, you are very innovative. I usually just preserve all mine. Still, preserved rhubarb and custard is pretty good.

  10. I’ve sort of come to rhubarb rather late – for years had a bit of an off and on relationship with it. Rhubarb fool has always been a winner though as you say. This year I’ve revisited the classic rhubarb and custard combination (proper custard not packet, obviously) which when eaten chilled with a brown sugar meringue (or two) turns out to be an absolutely sublime combination. I bake the rhubarb with soft brown sugar for a good hour in a slow oven and make the custard as per Delia Smith’s recipe in her Winter Collection – don’t bother to use any cream just the full quantity of liquid in whole milk. Absolutely yummy! Your rhubarb pastries look wonderful. Might try them too now that rhubarb and I are speaking more regularly! E x

    1. I like the idea of brown sugar meringues with rhubarb and custard. I shall have to try slow baking my rhubarb. Do you need to add liquid?

      1. No, I don’t – just any water clinging to the rhubarb after washing – but the dish needs to be covered so that you don’t evaporate off too much of the juice and it might need closer to an hour and a half depending on the length and diameter of the pieces of rhubarb. Brown sugar meringues go well with lots of things – I find using just soft brown sugar is too much – a third to a half of the overall sugar quantity is enough to give the meringues that lovely caramelised toffee taste without it being overbearing. E x

  11. Love rhubarb and love all your recipes too. This spring we’ve been eating it slightly warm from the pan (I poach it with strips of orange zest and light muscovado sugar or sometimes a spoon of stem ginger syrup) and a good dollop of clotted cream. I’ve now got four plants and all are growing like triffids after digging up and replanting a couple of years ago. When the children were home last week I made crumbles, cakes, scones and jam and sent them back to their university digs laden.

    1. Obviously the digging up and replanting works. I wish I’d done it a few years ago. Lucky children to return to university laden with goodies.

  12. I think I’m going to have to dig my rhubarb up and split it as it’s started sending out flowers and I think that’s a sign it’s congested. Will have to look that up. Anyway, I am another rhubarb-fan, although the comment above from the rhubarb-hater made me laugh. I love the tartness of rhubarb and am quite happy with it in a crumble, in a cake, in scones, in a fool. Whatever! It’s quite good in a chutney too, with some good ham or strong cheddar. I like the look of your pastries.

  13. add my name to the list of rhubarb lovers. I never get very adventurous – I usually stew it for breakfast – but I really should!
    and maybe I should lifting my rhubarb as you describe, to see if I get a better crop. I had never thought of that.
    have a great weekend, anne!

  14. I love rhubarb but live too far south to grow it. So, I have to pay $5.98/lb. Of course, I cannot buy much at that price. I live in N AL. Does anyone know of a variety that grows this far South?

  15. Hello Anne, I love rhubarb but I have some difficulty growing it. In the summer the whole plant just seems to disintegrate in our hot sun. Your fool sounds delicious and those pastries look like they are straight from an upmarket bakery! Beautiful colour in your rhubarb photos!

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