Learn About Rhubarb


Rhubarb is such a nostalgic perennial. Most of us remember going into the back yard and grabbing a stem (and a bowl of sugar) and crunching down on it. Ohhh that tart zing.

I have grown rhubarb in my yard for a number of years and sometimes I am lucky enough to get two harvests of it.

One of the great things about growing your own rhubarb is that it is a really low maintenance plant. It doesn’t need much attention at all.

If you find that you are becoming overrun with rhubarb, simply wait until the spring and dig up one or more of the plants. Remove them and either relocate them into a different section of the yard, or pass them on to family or friends.

Rhubarb Stems
Rhubarb Stems

What is Edible on a Rhubarb Plant?

The stems are edible, but the leaves are NOT!!

When harvesting, take kitchen scissors with you and cut of the leaves right away. Simply throw them in the compost bin. Rhubarb leaves contain poisonous substances, including oxalic acid, which is a nephrotoxic and corrosive acid that is present in many plants.

When Do I Harvest Rhubarb?

If this is your first or second year growing rhubarb, it is not really wise to harvest any. This will give the plant a better chance to really establish itself in its new environment.

  • Stalks are prime for picking once they have reached about 10 inches long. You can pick them earlier, but waiting is better for the plants health.
  • When you see that there are plenty of stalks ready, go ahead and pull from the base of the stem. BUT, make sure you leave a few stalks there. This is what will tell the plant to keep growing.
  • Keep an eye on it and watch for it to blossom. Pick stocks with buds as soon as you see them. If the flowers are allowed to blossom, then that will divert energy from growing the stalks to growing the flowers.
  • It is best to stop harvesting by late in July. This will allow the plant to store energy to survive the winter. You can harvest right up until the fall, but this will be harder on the plant.

What to do with Rhubarb

There are a number of things I love to do with rhubarb:

  • Cut it up and freeze it. There is no need to blanche the rhubarb if you plan on making jams or compotes out of it in the future. Thawed, rhubarb becomes quite mushy, but that is just fine when you plan on stewing it later anyway.
  • I love making rhubarb jam when I can only harvest a few stalks.
  • Rhubarb and strawberries go together so well. So combining these into crisps, crumbles and pies are an excellent option.
  • Pickled rhubarb is another awesome option.

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