Rhubarb is such a great prairie plant! It is one of the first things to be ready in the spring, it is winter hardy, it grows like crazy, and it’s all over Edmonton!
It seems like almost every home, especially in older neighbourhoods has rhubarb. If it isn’t in the yard, we often see it growing in back alleys where people don’t have to worry as much about trying to keep it under control.
There are lots of great things do with rhubarb. Of course we like to use it in cider, but you can also make cocktails, pies and as many prairie kids know – it can be pretty tasty just dipped in a bit of sugar. It can also be used in savoury dishes like in our Rhubarb Chicken recipe.
Here are a few things that are good to know about rhubarb:
Some Handy Tips for Rhubarb
- There are many different kinds of rhubarb. If you are growing rhubarb for a specific purpose it might be worth doing a bit of research into what kind you want. Generally though, most of us inherit rhubarb from people splitting plants that are out of control, and I’m not too picky as to what kind it is.
- Like many other temperate plants rhubarb needs a cold season to survive.
- Do not eat the leaves because of naturally occurring poisons. It’s also not recommended to eat the stalks if the rhubarb has been frozen or frost damaged while still attached to the leaves.
- It does take some time for rhubarb to get established. It will probably be established enough to start harvesting 2 years after planting.
- It is better to remove the stalks by twisting and pulling rather than cutting. This encourages the plant to keep producing.
- As tempting as it may be – try not to pick all of the stalks – this is still a plant and it needs some leaves to support itself. I usually leave the smaller stalks – about 1/3 of the total plant.
- Rhubarb often grows quickly and you may be able to harvest multiple times during the growing season. It’s usually a good idea to not harvest much after July on the prairies. That gives the plant some time to replenish itself and get ready for winter.
- Don’t rely on the stalk colour to determine if the rhubarb is ready, colour can vary for many reasons and some types of rhubarb will never turn red/pink.
- If your rhubarb starts to flower, you will notice it will send up one longer stalk that will produce flower buds on the end. This isn’t too big of a concern, but most people like to cut this stalk off as soon as they notice it so that the plant will keep directing its energy into the eatable part of the plant. We brought our flowering rhubarb inside for a nice centrepiece!
Enjoy your abundance of rhubarb! If you have extra that you’d like to donate, get in touch with us.