Dear Barbara: I really like rhubarb but I am a little confused; Is it a fruit or a vegetable? When is the best time to buy it and what do I look for when I do buy it? — Don from Lodi
Dear Don: To answer your first question, rhubarb is considered a vegetable, even though we treat it as a fruit, much like tomatoes that we use as a vegetable when it is actually a fruit. The decision was made by the New York courts in 1947 that because we use rhubarb in the United States as a fruit, it was considered a fruit for the purposes of regulations and duties. A side effect was a reduction of taxes paid. According to bonnieplants.com, harvesting time for rhubarb is from early spring to the end of summer. You will want to cut all the leaves off because they are toxic. Also cut about 2 inches off the bottom of the stem. Rhubarb should feel firm and be as red as possible.
Dear Barbara: I made a very large kettle of chicken noodle soup. Lots of chicken and vegetables; it is delicious. My question is how many times can you safely reheat the soup if you bring it to a boil and refrigerated it each time? — Joan from Mundelein
Dear Joan: Your soup can be reheated as many times as you want and it will last 3 to 4 days. Keep in mind that you are losing quality each time it is reheated. I would recommend putting the soup into serving size containers and freezing what you are not going to eat. That will maintain the quality of the soup and you can freeze the portions up to four months.
Dear Barbara: Will tomatoes continue to ripen after they are picked, and should you put them on a sunny windowsill to ripen faster? Do you put them in the refrigerator after they are fully ripe? — Rose from Lodi
Dear Rose: If the tomato is mature, it will ripen on the counter. Popular belief is that you would put them on a sunny windowsill, but that is incorrect. The counter is fine. The tomatoes that are picked before they mature will not ripen at all.
The only time you would put tomatoes in the refrigerator is if you are going to lose them. For full flavor, never put tomatoes in the refrigerator.
Barbara Spitzer is a Lodi home cook who also develops recipes for specific consumer products. Do you have a cooking question? Send it to Barbara Spitzer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and city.