The polyphenols contained in the rhubarb root can be used for the production of tannins. Rhubarb root extract can also be used for colouring. It gives a yellowish to red and brown colour. The ability to extract tannins from rhubarb was developed in the 1990s in the Saxon-Anhalt region of Bernburg, Germany. Compared to chrome tanning, vegetable tanning with rhubarb root extracts is more expensive. Therefore, rhubarb tanning is more of a niche method.
Rhubarb field - rhubarb root
With the protected term "Rhabarberleder®" (rhubarb leather], the company deepmello sells various articles made from rhubarb leather. The leather comes 100% from Germany and is chrome-free. Clothing, shoes, bags and accessories are made of rhubarb leather.
A German newspaper included an article dated 27.08.2015, about rhubarb leather. It was a cultural battle of the different factions. The rhubarb faction said that waste from chrome leather products was problematical. The association of the leather industry answered that rhubarb leather was not a convincing alternative or a "gag" because the production does not make economic sense. Both statements must be interpreted as hardened fronts. Chrome-tanned leather is not poisonous per se and rhubarb leather has quite an authorisation, but it doesn't have the perspective to be the main tanning method in future. The development of the market will show.