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I have a lovely rhubarb plant in the backyard. It grows like a weed, as rhubarb is wont to do.

On occasion, I like to slice off some stalks and bake myself up a nice rhubarb crisp, or a rhubarb cobbler, or some rhubarb turnovers. Delicious.

Inevitably, when I eat these, I end up with the gritty "rhubarb teeth" effect. I'm not sure if it's just me, or if my rhubarb weed plant just produces an unusually high concentration of oxalic acid, but it's annoying.

I understand that drinking milk can exacerbate the effect, but the only milk I tend to consume along with my rhubarb is in the recipe itself (usually in the form of butter). I quite strongly dislike using margarine in any of my recipes so I would prefer not to make that replacement if I can avoid it.

Are there any (other) methods or tricks I can use while cooking my rhubarb which will reduce the gritty teeth effect?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Peel the rhubarb before cooking - you can strip off the outer skin from the stalks quite easily. That helps.

EDIT: My wife told me to explain why.

In Yorkshire, the rhubarb capital of the world, you can buy "forced rhubarb", which has a tender pink skin because it is forced to grow up through dark tubes towards the light. Because "garden Rhubarb" is not forced, the "gritty teeth sensation" components accumulate in the skin, and an authority on the subject (my mother) told me many (>50) years ago that it was a good idea to peel it. She also taught me that it was a good way to divert children - show them how to pick a tender stem and dip it in sugar, then eat it raw -and that the sugar sticks to the stem easier if you peel the skin off first.

My grandmother had a lot of mysterious ways with rhubarb, including using it in ginger beer instead of the usual lemon. These are lost in time, but she always peeled it, whatever it was being used for, to avoid that sensation.

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klypos provided a great explanation and solution, but if you still have the problem and still think the butter (dairy) in the recipe might be exacerbating it, maybe try coconut milk instead of cow's milk?

I haven't tried it with rhubarb specifically, but have used it in a few cooked dishes lately and it seems to work great. And that's from the perspective of someone who detests the taste of pretty much anything dairy after it's been heated up, melted, etc., (hence the attempts to use coconut milk).

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Rhubarb contains large amounts of oxalic acid. The leaves contain most, so much that they are poisonous. The stuff is so acidic, you can use it to clean metal. Oxalic acid reacts with calcium forming insoluble calcium oxalate. Probably it takes some calcium out of your teeth. When I cook rhubarb, I always add a few powdered calcium tablets.

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