Seeing the rhubarb poke through the ground on a chilly day is always a good sign that the garden is awakening after the long winter. Technically rhubarb is a vegetable but we tend to treat it as being in the fruit category.
In April you can see the rhubarb crowns just poking through the ground after a wicked ice storm late in the season. The crowns and first leaves are red, but quickly turn to green.
And by May it is growing quickly with lots of new shoots under those big leaves. Growing rhubarb doesn’t require a lot of skill. I’ve moved mine around from spot to spot, dug up lots of crowns to share with friends and other gardeners. It does like a sunny location in well drained soil with some protection. My clump grows at the corner of the deck in it’s own little garden.
In June the stalks will be big enough to cut. Rinse the stalks thoroughly and then chop into pieces ready for cooking. If you wrap the stalks in a damp paper towel they will store in the fridge for up to one week. Mine never seem to make it to the fridge as they quickly get cooked into our favourite recipes. I also freeze lots of rhubarb for use in the winter months. Spread out the chopped pieces onto a cookie sheet and freeze, and then bag in recipe portions and store in the freezer.
Last year I had a huge flower stalk that appeared on the rhubarb. Of course I had to let it grow so I could get photos of it. A bit of research told me that it wouldn’t affect the plant in any way and I still had an amazing harvest of rhubarb.
The long red stalks are the edible part and the leaves contain oxalic acid which should not be ingested. For this reason I don’t put the leaves into the composter but get rid of them in the bags of garden waste that go to the landfill. As a youngster did you ever get a stalk of rhubarb to dip into a bowl of sugar? Rhubarb is a tart fruit and the recipes always call for lots of sugar, so even though the rhubarb might be low in calories the recipes aren’t!!
Some of my favourite rhubarb recipes are 6 layer rhubarb cake and rhubarb apple crumble. Follow the links to see the recipes. This year I’m tempted to try a recipe from Marie’s blog, The English Kitchen, called Rhubarb Calfoutis.
Do you have a favourite rhubarb recipe?