Rhubarb is one of the earliest producers in Spring. It’s very easy to grow and it is a perennial, meaning that you plant it once and it will come up year after year. Many people get 20 years worth of harvest off of a single rhubarb plant.
That is a great return. Use rhubarb in all kinds of recipes, from jams to pies, stewed or added to homemade juices or sodas.
By mid-April our Rhubarb is already poking out of the ground. Rhubarb loves to live in climates where there is a good freeze each Winter.
Buy 2 or 3 year old Rhubarb roots, or better yet, get some from a fellow gardener. At some point, everyone has enough Rhubarb in their gardens and are willing to share their bounty. You can plant the roots in Spring or Fall, making sure to plant them several feet apart.
Rhubarb gets big and prolific, so make sure you keep that in mind when you are planting. If you can’t find someone with enough to share, you can order Rhubarb seeds.
If you plant it in the Spring, don’t pick any stalks until the following year. Let the plant and its roots grow, and you will be doubly rewarded the following year.
If you plant it in the Fall, you can lightly pick it the following Spring. Make sure you never pick a Rhubarb plant clean. Leave a few stalks alone, the plant needs this in order to renew a growth spurt for the following year.
Keep in mind that the stalks are the only part of the plant you use. The leaves and the roots are poisonous, not only to humans, but also to animals. Use those large leaves as a mulch for around the base of your Rhubarb plants. Weed the area first, then pick your Rhubarb, cut off the leaves and lay them down to smother any more weeds from coming up.
Pick your Rhubarb by twisting and snapping the stalks. The bigger the stalk, the better the harvest, so leave any small stalks on the plant.
At some point during the growing season, your Rhubarb will send up a thick flower stalk. Be sure to cut this down as soon as you see it. You don’t ever want Rhubarb to go to seed; you want your plant to keep putting its energy into making new stalks.
When your plants are nice and large (maybe after 3 or 4 years) you can proprogate and get new plants. Take your garden spade and cleaning slice your plant in half or thirds. Dig up the pieces and plant them in a new fertile hole. Dig in some well composted manure before you plant.
Before you know it, you will have enough Rhubarb to feed your family and then you can start giving your own plants away.
To preserve Rhubarb, you don’t even have to blanch it before popping it in the freezer. It can’t get much easier to provide your family with tasty Rhubarb all year long, can it? I like to bag mine up in 4 cup measures, as that is what is generally called for when it comes to pies.
You could freeze it in 2 cup batches and make a blended pie with berries making up the other half. Pick a sweet berry, so that you won’t have to add much (if any) sugar. We like to use Raspberries, Strawberries or Saskatoon berries.
I don’t can our Rhubarb, but it can certainly be done. Use a boiling water bath. You have to add a fair bit of sugar, about 3/4 cup to 1 quart of Rhubarb. Mix together well and put some of the cooking liquid into each jar. Process for 20 minutes.
We often make a batch of Rhubarb wine with our harvest. Want to try it? Read how to create your own Rhubarb Wine!
Take a look at this book for more than 200 recipes using rhubarb.
If you don’t already have Rhubarb growing in your garden, get some this year and plant it. For such a small investment of time to get it started, you will be able to eat Rhubarb every year for decades.