roasted rhubarb with vanilla and rose syrup

roasted rhubarb with vanilla and rose syrup

These days, if you find yourself at the green market, you’ll hardly remember the cold days that are not-so-long behind us. Gone are the Saturdays when our only options were tubers and root vegetables. Suddenly the market is alive! There is plenty of green, new scents, new stalls. The overwintered leeks, the delicate new salad greens, asparagus, ramps! In no time we will see (and smell!) the first of the strawberries – these will be truly magical weeks when you’ll be tempted to eat your berries before you get home from your weekly trip.

But favorite spring moment at the greenmarket isn’t when I spy the first strawberries of the season, or the first green spears of asparagus. It’s when I find rhubarb, green with hot pink hues, firm and sturdy, piled high. Most people grab a few stalks satisfied with their bounty, but me – I get several pounds at a time, greedily stuffing my bags with the tart fruit.

roasted rhubarb with vanilla and rose syrup

This year, in particular, I’ve been experimenting with rhubarb more than usual. I love its versatility in both savory and sweet dishes. I love that, just like a talented actor, rhubarb’s supporting role is often essential in bringing the whole dish together – much like a performance in a play. I am also partial to the tart notes that can break up the cloying monotony of an otherwise sweet ingredient, like strawberries.

But, rhubarb isn’t just for strawberry pairings, you know. It needs its own spotlight to shine with perhaps another ingredient acting as a canvas to highlight its true talents. In the past, I have been stewing rhubarb with a generous helping of sugar until it fell apart into a jam-like slurry, which I would mix into my morning yogurt, or spruce up the otherwise-boring breakfast oatmeal.

roasted rhubarb with vanilla and rose syrup

But last year, upon a recommendation from a friend, I started roasting it. And it’s been revelatory. For one, your pieces of rhubarb stay intact, which is sort of remarkable, given the fruit’s talents for practically dissolving. And another thing – roasted rhubarb, sitting a top a thick layer of homemade ricotta spread over a piece of rustic bread – is nothing short of heaven!

This spring, in attempts to coax even more flavor and fragrance from my rhubarb stalks, I decided to switch out my vanilla extract for the real vanilla bean, and add a few spoons of delicately perfumed rose syrup to the mix. While I’m still weary of rose water, its scent far too harsh for me, the rose syrup is softer, more delicate, and accents the rhubarb in the most perfect of ways, making the whole dish sing.

roasted rhubarb with vanilla and rose syrup

But my favorite part is that in the time it takes you to watch and episode of the Daily Show, you can have your roasted rhubarb and eat it too! Instant gratification – a nice foil for spring’s delayed arrival.

Roasted Rhubarb with Vanilla and Rose Syrup

3/4 pound rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
Zest of 1 orange
Juice of 1 orange
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons demerara sugar
3 tablespoons rose syrup

1. Position the oven rack in the middle and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Stir together the rhubarb, zest, juice, vanilla, sugar and rose syrup, and stir to combine. Set aside for 15 minutes to allow the fruit to macerate.

3. Spread the rhubarb and juices out on the baking sheet, making sure to position each piece of rhubarb flat against the sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, until rhubarb is soft and grows pale in color. Set on a baking rack to cool. Roasted rhubarb will keep for up to 3 days, refrigerated.


  • Yuri

    You all make me so jealous during rhubarb season… I’ve never had it, love the pink color it has. I think I should get some seeds and grow my own!

  • Lori

    I planted my first rhubarb plant last year, and have been looking for new and creative ways to use it. I never thought of roasting it. Brilliant!

  • Kat

    Wow! I got some rhubarb from a friend–not very much, and I’ve already used part in a strawberry-rhubarb jam… But roasting it! That sounds fantastic. I got a rhubarb plant this year, and it should be producing by next year–I can’t wait.

    When I was growing up, in Tajikistan, my great-grandfather used to eat it raw, dipping it in salt. And I’ve had a love affair with it ever since then…

  • Radish

    Melissa – various specialty shops should be able to sell it.

    Kat – dipped in salt – now that’s a new idea!

  • snippets of thyme

    Made sweet poached rhubarb with kirsch sabayon a few weeks ago. Its featuring in Honest right now. I just discovered rhubarb this year! I have been missing out. Just posted an article today using it to make a mustard side to go with bbq’d pork chops. Now I am addicted! Your dish looks so good and now that I have made something similar, I know how good it tastes!

  • Radish

    Brian – it’s a really delicate scent. I’m not big on rosewater – it tastes too perfumey to me, but the syrup is lovely – I highly recommend it.

  • Kristine

    May I ask – in the picture, what is the white thing that the rhubarb is served with? I was re-reading your post several times thinking I missed something, but couldn’t find it. At least visually it reminds me of ”milk kisel” that I was eating when little.

  • Robin @ what-about-the-food

    Oh my! I must give this a try. My husband had been trying to get me to unpair rhubarb from strawberries for years and this is just the right, brilliant recipe for me to give it a go. Just have to find rose syrup to match your delectable ingredient list. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Hana

    I read this last night after buying some rhubarb from the local farmer’s market. I couldn’t wait to try it so I did. No rose syrup or orange on hand so I settled for lemon, lemon zest, vanilla and a bit of sugar. Delicious! Thank you for a wonderful breakfast with my yogurt.

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