Rhubarb stalks in bowl and background

The Little Island Kitchen – Rhubarb

Tart enough to pucker your lips and pink as a blushing cheek, rhubarb is one of my favourite things and is an old staple of spring cooking on Prince Edward Island. From jams and compotes to pies and crumbles, and even a fresh stalk cheerfully dipped in sugar, rhubarb appears in some of the most iconic sweets from the annals of PEI culinary history. This month, I’ve added a couple of my own contributions for your consideration.

Technically a vegetable, rhubarb grows abundantly in our Island soil and many of us harvest those slim pink stalks from our own backyards. But for those of you like me, without much of a green thumb or an established plant nearby, you can also pick rhubarb up in many of the local markets across PEI. When I shop for rhubarb, I look for stems with a deep pink flush to them (for colour only) and leaves that are still firm and fresh. Once you’ve got them in your kitchen you must cut off and discard the leaves because they are highly toxic, due to their high oxalic acid content. Give the stalks a rinse just before cooking and you’re ready to go.

As a harbinger of summer, I never hesitate to use rhubarb in treats that remind me of our most cherished season’s impending arrival. I feel a dose of rhubarb is the perfect tonic to see me through our imperfect Island spring to the glory days of summer, and my Rhubarb Ginger Ice Cream is just the ticket. With the fiery warmth of the ginger and sharp tartness of the rhubarb, this ice cream is a refreshing dessert either in a bowl or crunchy waffle cone. Its subtle pink hue can be amped up by adding a couple of drops of red food colouring, or a few mashed up raspberries if you want to keep it natural.

Pinkish rhubarb ice cream served in a pair of ice cream dishes.Rhubarb ice cream, a yummy taste of spring.// Photo credit: Paige Matthie

For a very grown-up sort of treat, my Rhubarb Gin Fizz is the ideal cocktail for a springtime gathering. The botanicals of the gin combined with the floral, fruity tones of rhubarb and all shook up with a frothy egg white really celebrates the wonderful subtleties of springtime flavours. It’s my favourite seasonal tipple, and you can easily leave out the egg white if that’s just not for you. You can also dabble in mixology by adding some other elements to the mix like a couple of mint leaves or a sprinkle of lavender buds!

Rhubarb is a classic flavour of spring and can be used in many creative ways. Once the fresh stuff bursts through the soil, you can count on these two treats making regular appearances in my kitchen, along with other rhubarb delights. Words and Recipes by Paige Matthie

Ginger Rhubarb Ice Cream

20 minutes active time / Makes approx 6-7 cups

4-5 cups chopped rhubarb
300 ml sweetened condensed milk
500 ml whipping cream
4 inches fresh ginger, grated

Photo Credit: Paige Matthie


1. Add the rhubarb and ginger to a pot and, without adding any water or sugar, bring to a boil over high heat. Turn it down to a simmer as soon as it starts to boil. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently to keep the ginger from burning to the bottom of the pot. The goal is to both combine the two flavours as well as evaporate off a good amount of the water. This should help keep your final ice cream from forming ice crystals throughout. Cook down until you’re left with about 2 cups of stewed rhubarb and remove from the heat. Scoop out into a bowl and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Rhubarb and ginger in pot.

Rhubarb and ginger in pot. // Photo Credit: Paige Matthie

2. Once the gingery rhubarb has chilled, whip your cream in a large bowl until you have soft peaks (when the tips of cream just fall back on themselves). Set aside, and combine your sweetened condensed milk with your rhubarb mixture until blended. Add a good scoop of your whipped cream to the sweet rhubarb mix and stir. This will help it all blend together smoothly. Add the creamy rhubarb mix to the remaining cream and stir until mixed well.

3. Now is the time to give your mixture a quick taste. If you’re finding the sharpness of the rhubarb isn’t coming through quite enough, add a tablespoon of lemon juice and stir again. Also, if you have more stewed rhubarb kicking around, you can always add a few dollops and swirl it through!

4. Put the mix into the fridge in a sealable container and leave to set, about 4-5 hours. Give it a proper stir about once an hour and serve up to your favourite people. If there is any leftover (unlikely!), it will keep for up to a week in the freezer (move it to the fridge an hour or two before serving to soften it a bit).

Close up of rhubarb ice cream.

Photo Credit: Paige Matthie

Rhubarb Gin Fizz

5 minutes / Makes 1 cocktail

4 oz rhubarb syrup (see recipe below)
2 oz gin
1 medium egg white
2 oz club soda
3 ice cubes

Optional: mint, lavender, strawberries,
elderflower liqueur

Ingredients for Rhubarb Gin Fizz displayed on serving tray.

Photo Credit: Paige Matthie

1. Pour the club soda in a tall tumbler and set aside.

2. Add the remaining ingredients except the ice to the cocktail shaker and give it a good shake for about 15-20 seconds.

3. Add the ice and shake for another 15 seconds.

4. Strain into the club soda and let it settle for a few seconds until the lovely froth rises to the top and serve. Cheers!

Rhubarb Gin Fizz in tumbler with alongside shaker.

Photo Credit: Paige Matthie

How to Make Rhubarb Syrup

1. Add 8 cups of chopped rhubarb to a pot and add 2 cups granulated sugar and 2 cups water.

2. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the rhubarb is well and truly cooked and the fibres have separated.

3. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine mesh sieve to separate the syrup from the pulp.
Use the remaining stewed rhubarb to make ice cream or scoop on top of yogurt!