At any given farmers market or grocery store, customers will likely find produce theyíve never tried before. If rhubarb is one of your mystery plants, now is the perfect time to get adventurous and try it.
Here are some facts and recipes that will turn any rhubarb newbie into a believer. Fresh or frozen produce can be used in these dishes; but if itís frozen, you need to measure the plant while itís still frozen and then thaw it completely. Youíll also want to drain it in a colander, but donít press the liquid out.

WHAT IS RHUBARB? Rhubarb is a vegetable, but itís often treated like a fruit in desserts and jams where sugar is added. While the plantís leaves are toxic, its stalks are edible and rich and tart in taste. It thrives in cooler weather and full sun and is very easy to grow.
WHEN DOES IT GROW? The rhubarb growing season runs between April and September, varying slightly depending on the region. Strawberries and rhubarb often reach peak ripeness near the same time of year. The two work well combined together in dishes.
IS IT GOOD FOR YOU? Rhubarb is about 95-percent water. In its natural state, one diced cup of the vegetable contains about 26 calories. Itís high in vitamin C and fiber and a good source of calcium and potassium. Some reports say it can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
HOW IS IT PREPARED? The vegetable can be stewed, baked and stir-fried. It freezes very well, but should be done so in chopped form. Many people also can it.
Source: The Old Farmerís Almanac, rhubarb-central.com, rhubarbinfo.com

Rhubarb-Blueberry Crumble
Makes 8 servings

Filling ingredients:
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
ľ teaspoons salt
3 cups fresh blueberries
3 cups sliced fresh or frozen rhubarb, thawed

Topping ingredients:
ĺ cup biscuit/baking mix
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 t salt
1/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
Ĺ cup old-fashioned oats
Ĺ cup chopped almonds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, mix sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add blueberries and rhubarb; toss to coat. Transfer to a greased 8-inch-square baking dish.
For topping, in a small bowl, mix baking mix, sugar and salt. Cut in butter until crumbly; stir in oats and almonds. Sprinkle over filling. Bake 40-45 minutes or until filling is bubbly and topping is golden brown. Yield: 8 servings.
Recipe courtesy of Taste of Home.

RHUBARB CUSTARD BARS
Makes 36 servings

Crust ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
ľ cup sugar
1 cup cold butter

Filling ingredients:
2 cups sugar
7 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 eggs, beaten
5 cups finely chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb, thawed and drained

Topping ingredients:
2 packages (3 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
Ĺ cup sugar
Ĺ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped

In a bowl, combine the flour and sugar; cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press into a greased 13-inch-by-9-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, for filling, combine sugar and flour in a bowl. Whisk in cream and eggs. Stir in the rhubarb. Pour over crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until custard is set. Cool.
For topping, beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth; fold in whipped cream. Spread over top. Cover and chill. Cut into bars. Store in the refrigerator.
Recipe courtesy of Taste of Home.

Rhubarb Citrus Punch
Makes 12 servings

Ingredients:
8 cups diced fresh or frozen rhubarb
5 cups water
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 cups orange juice
ĺ cup lemon juice
1 quart ginger ale, chilled
1 quart fresh or frozen strawberries, optional
Ice cubes

In a large kettle, simmer rhubarb and water until rhubarb is soft. Cool; strain through several layers of cheesecloth. Measure 4 cups juice and return to kettle with the sugar. Heat until sugar is dissolved. Chill.
Refrigerate or freeze any remaining rhubarb juice for another batch. Combine orange and lemon juices and rhubarb mixture. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before serving, stir in ginger ale and strawberries if desired. Serve in chilled glass over ice.
Recipe courtesy of Taste of Home.

Andrea Honaker is a reporter for The Gaston Gazette in Gastonia, N.C.