rhubarb simple syrup and compote

suspicious smells from the kitchen :::



“It smells like marijuana!” my husband said, wide eyed, just up from a nap on the weekend. “Why does it smell like pot?”

“Um, I don’t know. The windows aren’t open,” I answered. None of the neighbors were toking up at the time. “I think you’re smelling the rhubarb I cooked.”

That’s what it was, in fact, the rhubarb. The more I sniffed, the more I understood why Eat was so concerned at first. It really did smell like marijuana, not actually a legal plant and a much better yogurt topping. If someone walked into our home at that point, they may have cast some suspicious glances around, looking for bong or a hastily misplaced baggie skirting the trash can.


Such green rhubarb! Alas, my drink will be pink.


I first discovered I liked rhubarb when I was 12 years old. A friend had given me a rhubarb and custard flavored hard candy and I was surprised that the tart, weedy flavor was actually better than I expected. For years, I had seen my mom and aunt gush over my aunt’s rhubarb garden. I never understood the appeal of rhubarb crisp, or pie, or the draw to the earthy, tart odor. Now it suddenly seemed so clear.



These days, I like it best in things like this, the strawberry-rhubarb pie my neighbor brought over last week (thanks, L!), and in the the following recipe to make drinks. A homemade rhubarb soda on an almost-summer’s day brings me back to my rhubarb-hating days, thinking I was scoring big with just the vanilla ice cream for dessert. Maybe ice cream floats with rhubarb soda are in order. Or rhubarb mojitos. Or rhubarb compote topping some steel-cut oatmeal. I’ve even had it in a savory dish of crab at the famed Alinea Restaurant. Rhubarb is truly a versatile green, and so under appreciated.

Be warned: if you smell something suspicious wafting from my house, it’s the rhubarb. Promise. Remember, the possibilities are endless.


rhubarb simple syrup and compote
Recipe type: drink (and breakfast/snack)
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 4 cups rhubarb, chopped*
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups water
  1. Combine all in a medium sized pot and bring to boil.
  2. Simmer 10-15 minutes, until rhubarb is soft and loses its color.
  3. Strain through fine mesh strainer. Do not push on solids or you will create a sludgy syrup.
  4. FOR THE COMPOTE: The leftover solids in the strainer keep for about a month in the fridge. I use it as a wonderful topping for Greek yogurt.
  5. FOR THE SYRUP: Store the syrup in a tightly-capped jar for up to a 1 month in the fridge. Use to flavor sparkling water for a rhubarb soda or use for cocktails.
* If you have green and red streaked rhubarb, your syrup will be pink (like mine in the photos). If you are blessed with ruby red rhubarb, your simple syrup will reflect that.




  • amphion27 June 1, 2012 Reply

    Rhubarb with strawberries! Yum! But remember, rhubarb leaves and roots are poisonous; just the stalks please.

    • story June 1, 2012 Reply

      No oxalic acid for me, thanks! (The leaves/roots are always pruned for grocery store rhubarb, lest there be an over-excitable but uninformed customer who might just try to eat them.)

  • Jim June 5, 2012 Reply

    Yes, of course, leaf stalks only. The vitamin C content probably helped the early settlers avoid scurvy, along with other greens that did not need cooking.Especially good with those strawberries…

  • Kari June 28, 2012 Reply

    Do you happen to have a recipe for the Rhubarb Rock, or hard candies? I have been looking all over for one and not had any luck. Many thanks.

    • story June 28, 2012 Reply

      I know exactly what you mean, but I haven’t been able to find it either. You might be able to find a hard candy recipe and use a rhubarb flavoring to mimic the rock recipe. I also have found numerous recipes on candied rhubarb but not tried one yet. Descriptions liken the candied rhubarb to a natural gummy candy consistency.

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