21 July 2021

Making wine from rhubarb

Rhubarb is strange stuff. Technically it's a vegetable but it's usually cooked with piles of sugar and served as a fruit. Why does this work with rhubarb and not with, say, spinach or broccoli? Because, unlike most vegetables, rhubarb is high in acid. We enjoy fruits for their balance of sweet and sour, sugar and acid. Only, there's a catch. The acids in real fruits are malic, citric and tartaric. Rhubarb contains mainly oxalic acid which is poisonous. Fortunately, the highest concentration of oxalic acid in rhubarb is in the leaves. The stalks are perfectly safe to eat, raw or cooked, in normal quantities. This should come as no surprise. We've been eating the stuff for centuries. 

Ingredients for 5 litres:

  • 2kg rhubarb stalks (no leaves!)
  • 2 large ripe bananas
  • 1 litre supermarket apple juice (no preservatives!)
  • 800 grams granulated sugar
  • Cold water, to 5 litres total


Prepare a yeast starter using a small quantity of chopped rhubarb, some apple juice and some dried wine yeast. Leave it overnight.
Chop the rhubarb into wee bits.
Chop the bananas into slices without peeling them.
Put all the fruit, juice and half the sugar into the fermenting bin
Add water enough to cover/float the fruit.
Add the yeast starter and ferment on the pulp for three days
Strain into a 5-litre fermenting vessel
Add the rest of the sugar in water
Ferment to dryness, etc. . .


Because of the bananas, this wine will froth up impressively. Don't be in a hurry to fill the fermenting jar before it has calmed down. Why add bananas? To achieve better balance. Rhubarb is high acid low sugar, bananas are high sugar low acid. They also add body. Rhubarb alone would be 'thin'.

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