|Thursday Techniques: Growing Rhubarb|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Thursday, 05 April 2012|
I received a question last week from someone who planted some rhubarb a few years ago but had yet to harvest any to eat. The problem, she wrote about is that the rhubarb goes to seed before she has a chance to harvest it so she was wondering if I could give her some pointers on growing rhubarb. The answer? Absolutely! But first a few words about growing this vegetable, er, fruit.
Rhubarb is a perennial plant that has bright red stems and big green leaves. Rhubarb is quite ornamental looking and can be planted in a perennial border; however, in most cases itís planted off to the side of the garden. While the stems are edible the leaves are extremely poisonous. They can however be thrown into the compost pile as they decompose fairly quickly.
Rhubarb is grown from divisions or crowns, and rarely if ever, by seed. It is one of those plants that thrives in cold weather. In fact, it needs temperatures to drop below 40 degrees F in order to break dormancy and grows best when summer temperatures donít exceed 75 degrees F. Itís a staple in many New England home gardens, but the biggest commercial growers are found in Washington, Oregon, and Michigan.
What makes harvesting rhubarb a little tricky is that whereas most vegetables and fruits are obvious, itís the stems that are harvested and eaten. First, the stalks should only be harvested once the plant is three years old. Harvest stalks that are sturdy and not slender, in the range of 1/2 inch wide or less. Younger stalks, harvested soon after the leaves unfurl, are more flavorful than older ones. Depending on your location, the stalks are ready for harvesting in May and June. Rhubarb is very bitter and is not eaten raw, but boiled in water with lots of sugar to make a sauce, which is eaten alone (with heavy cream!) or used in rhubarb pie and other desserts.
Life's Little Rhubarb Cookbook: 101 Rhubarb Recipes
Joy Of Rhubarb: The Versatile Summer Delight
Great Rhubarb Recipes: Storey Country Wisdom Bulletin A-123
Photo Source: www.veggiegardeningtips.com