The Best Fruit To Serve With Rhubarb Isn't Strawberries

Some would argue that strawberries and rhubarb are one of the culinary world's greatest pairings. Together they make desserts that are sweet and tart with a spectacular pinkish red color. Even though strawberries are the sweet element in the pairing, they themselves carry some tartness too, so a good amount of sugar is almost always present in a strawberry-rhubarb recipe. There is a fruit, though, with a level of natural sweetness that makes it an even better match for rhubarb's tart taste.

Rhubarb, meet the date, the sweet to your sour. These small and sugary fruits from the date palm tree have been pleasing palates for thousands of years and are often paired with contrasting flavors to counter their intense sweetness. Dates and rhubarb could easily be combined to make compotes, cakes, chutneys, or sauces for drizzling over ice cream and pastries. You could even add dates to strawberry-rhubarb recipes as the sweetener in the recipe. It might take some playing around, but dates are absolutely sweet enough to replace plain sugar.

Sweet dates balance rhubarb's bright flavor

If you've ever sampled rhubarb on its own you probably recall the way it makes your lips pucker and your eyes squint. Dates can help to balance out that sharp flavor in your recipes, without a ton of added sugar. They have brown sugar, toffee, and caramel flavor notes that can counterbalance even the most tart of ingredients, making for a very pleasing sweet and sour pairing.

Dates are grown in many parts of America and are not difficult to find, although you're more likely to find fresh dates from the late summer to the early fall in Middle Eastern markets and farmer's markets. Rhubarb is ripe and ready to use in the springtime, just about the time when strawberries are at their peak of flavor which is partly why they're often paired together. But even though fresh dates don't share the same harvest season, dried dates are available year-round, and they are just as sweet and suitable.