The edible stalks of the rhubarb plant have a strong, sour taste similar to celery but distinctively tangy. Often referred to as "the pie plant," rhubarb is commonly cooked with sugar and paired with fruit in pies and other desserts to counteract its tartness.
Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable belonging to the Polygonaceae family. Rhubarb grows well in warm and temperate climates. Only its tart fleshy stems are used in cooking because the leaves and roots of the rhubarb plant contain dangerous levels of oxalic acid and are toxic to humans. With stalks ranging in color from the characteristic pinkish-red to light green, rhubarb can be consumed raw but is generally sliced and boiled with sugar until soft. It is 95 percent water and has little nutritional value aside from a moderate amount of potassium. In the United States, it is perhaps most often prepared for use in strawberry-rhubarb pie, but it can also be turned into sauce, pickled, frozen or preserved as jam. It can be used in savory dishes as well. Rhubarb likely originated in China, where its roots had been used for medicinal purposes for many centuries before its stalks were brought to Europe and became popular in baked goods.