Oxalates (the type of poison) are contained in all parts of rhubarb plants, especially in the green leaves. There is some evidence that anthraquinone glycosides are also present and may be partly responsible. It is not clear as to the exact source of poisoning from rhubarb, possibly a result of both compounds. The stalks contain low levels of oxalates, so this does not cause problems.
Have you ever seen that episode of the Simpsons where Homer thinks he is going to die because he eats the blowfish? Well, eating a rhubarb plant is kind of similar to this. There are parts of the rhubarb plant that are safe to eat, but others can actually kill you. Rhubarb leaves contain high levels of a poison called oxalate that causes weakness, burning, and even death when ingested in high levels. This actually occurred during WWII when rhubarb leaves were prescribed as a substitute for other, unavailable veggies. The stalks of the rhubarb plant, however, contain less oxalate. But the whole stalk can’t be ingested, and not because of oxalate. The bottom of the rhubarb stalk actually contains glycosides, which are also poisonous, so it’s important to also to eat only the middle of the stalk.
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