The use of rhubarb as food is relatively recent, dating back to the 17th-century, after affordable sugar became available to common people. Nicolas Culpepper, the British physician, botanist, herbalist and astrologer, includes three varieties of rhubarb in his The Complete Herbal, a small herbal encyclopaedia first published in 1653, where he recorded the herbs he most commonly used in his practise for their therapeutic properties.  


I have recently got my hands on an original 1863 edition and reading his descriptions of the many benefits of this vegetable mostly used in our kitchen as a fruit, inspired me to combine the rhubarb stalks with ginger, for combined, rhubarb “purges…phlegm downwards very gently”. This to add up on the more known laxative properties, that makes rhubarb very popular also in Chinese Traditional Medicine where it’s been used for millennia.

Culpepper goes on attributing to Mars the supremacy on all the varieties of rhubarb and explaining what the roots, seeds and leaves, in addition to the stalks can cure. Always an interesting reading.


Coming back to our present recipe, the cardamom and vanilla additions were just a whim of the moment because vanilla kind of make anything sweet better and cardamom could add on the spiciness of the ginger.


It turns out a different flavour to the traditional and more popular strawberry and rhubarb jam, where the strawberries mild up the tart flavour of the rhubarb that here is instead reinforced by the lemon peel and the ginger, for a decisive contraposition of flavours between the sugar sweetness and the rhubarb-lemony flavour.

If you love bitter orange marmalade, you will love this recipe which is perfect for all those who don’t really like it too sweet and appreciate a depth of flavours in their food.




Rhubarb stalks neatly cleaned of all leaves - any quantity you have (calculate about 350 gr per one small jar of finished product)

Caster Sugar (half of the weight of the rhubarb)

1 lemon peel

1 pod of green cardamom per each half a kg of rhubarb used (crush the extrenal pod and used only the seeds inside)

3 slices of ginger per each ½  kg of rhubarb used

½ vanilla pod per each ½  kg of rhubarb used

Little water



Chop the rhubarb’s stalks in small pieces and put them in a pan with the sugar, the water, the vanilla pod halved and the vanilla powder inside well scraped off it and added to the mixture, the slices of peeled ginger and the inside seeds of the cardamom pod.

Add just a little water to get the mixture boiling without risking to burn anything. I would say half a glass per each ½ kg of fruit.

Bring it to boil and let it simmer up to when the fruit is soft and the jam looks dense but still slightly liquid.

Remove the vanilla pod, the ginger and the lemon peel.

Pass the jam in the mixer.

You can store it in glass jars and if you want to keep it for more than a couple of weeks, don’t forget to boil them to vacuum the content and preserve it. Please read carefully the instructions on how to do that.

Forgive me for writing fruit in the recipe’s procedure… Rhubarb is a vegetable but it just sounded weird in that context.