Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rhubarb

My first experience with rhubarb was as a missionary in England. The little back yard in Exeter had a rhubarb plant growing there. Now your first clue that this is a fabulous plant is that it was surviving where missionaries lived. We had no time to take care of it. Although the leaves die down in the winter, the plant  is a perennial and sprouts back up in the spring. No planting ever year!  It is very tart and is not really eaten raw, but cook it up with some sugar and it is so good!

It is a good source of vitamin C and dietary fiber {and it is a vegetable}. I planted several rhubarb plants in my garden this year. I bought a few crowns from our local Tractor Supply. Crown buds should go one to two inches below the soil when planting. My rhubarb is growing like crazy! These pictures are of the growth of the rhubarb in one week. I started my rhubarb in containers, but I am going to transfer them into a shady place in my yard so the root system can develop. 



This year, starting rhubarb in my garden is a labor of love. Harvesting any stalks in the first season is highly discouraged because it takes time for rhubarb to develop its root system. The second year should also be a conservative harvest. This is a good investment, because rhubarb will then love you back and give you a great harvest for many years to come.

Even into the third year and beyond, it is important to harvest only some of the stems every year. This will help keep the plant strong. When the stalks are 12 inches long is a good time to harvest the stalks. Stop harvesting the stalks in mid-summer. Rhubarb loves lots of water. These plants can get very big, so every four or five years it is good to split the plant. Beware of the leaves, they are very poisonous {the tongue and throat can swell and prevent breathing}. The leaves are only dangerous if actually ingested. This plant can last for 7-10 years or longer. It loves cool climates and doesn't do so well in warm climates.
 
Strawberry and rhubarb crumble is my favorite thing to cook after a good harvest. It will keep in the refrigerator for about a week and the freezer for about six months. It makes a great pie,sauce and jam too!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Growing up, we always ate the rubarb raw. I just may have to try a plant, but wonder if it is too warm here???

Nada

Linda said...

Virginia Cooperative Extension says, "Rhubarb is a cool-season crop that has the potential to be grown successfully in most, but not all, parts of Virginia.

It is extremely winter hardy. Depending on variety, it requires at least 500 hours of winter temperatures between 28° and 49°F (chilling hours) to adequately form new leaf buds."