Rhubarb is a perennial plant that is used in a number of popular recipes. Although many admire rhubarb for its tart flavor, the plant contains a harmful chemical substance known as oxalic acid. Oxalic acid reacts with nutrients within the body to cause a number of health issues, including joint pain and kidney stones. Distilling the oxalic acid from rhubarb leaves into water and then adding calcium carbonate in the form of precipitated chalk will cause the oxalic acid to form into oxalate crystals, which can then be strained from the mixture.
Things You'll Need
With a digital scale, find the combined weight of your rhubarb leaves in grams. This information is used to find the proper amount of precipitated chalk to add to the juice.
Crush and grind your rhubarb leaves with a large pestle on top of a cutting board. After leaves have been thoroughly ground, place them into a large pot. Wash your hands with soap and warm water afterward.
Add one gallon of cold water to the large pot containing your rhubarb leaves. If you’re soaking rhubarb leaves to make wine, add a Campden tablet and stir until dissolved. Cover the pot and let the leaves sit for about three days to release all oils.
Use metal tongs to pull out the larger remaining pieces of rhubarb leaves and place them in a nylon straining bag. Squeeze the bag over the pot to return as much liquid as possible and discard the pulp. Wash your hands and the tongs thoroughly with soap and warm water afterward; do the same with the nylon straining bag if you plan to reuse it.
Add one gram of precipitated chalk to the rhubarb mixture for each 100 grams of weight measured in Step 1. Stir in the precipitated chalk with a wooden spoon and let the mixture sit for three hours. Oxalate crystals may begin to settle at the bottom of the rhubarb mixture.
Taste a small amount of the rhubarb mixture from your wooden spoon. You will be able to note the presence of oxalic acid as an acidic, sour taste. Add another quarter gram of precipitated chalk for each 100 grams of rhubarb leaves if you can detect the taste of oxalic acid. Let the mixture sit for another three hours and repeat this step.
If you are making the rhubarb mixture to create wine, continue with the wine-making process. Oxalate crystals and any remaining rhubarb leave residue will be removed during the first racking. For juice and other rhubarb-based liquids, pour the mixture through a fine wire mesh strainer set on top of another large pot. This will remove oxalate crystals, excess precipitated chalk and rhubarb leave residue.
References and Resources"Botanical Abstracts, Vol. 7," Board of Control of Botanical Abstracts: Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore; 1921
Winemaking Secrets: Sugar, Acid and Alcohol
Winemaking: Requested Recipe - Rhubarb Wine
ResourcesDewsWorld: In Defense of Oxalic Acid
Henriette's Herbal Homepage: Acidum Oxalicum - Oxalic Acid