Did you know that rhubarb can grow for 10 years or more? That it’s an exceptionally easy to plant to grow and is an essential ingredient in delicious spring recipes?
I’m sure you did! In this post, we will learn more about its origins, and how to grow, harvest, and store it. And 12 rhubarb recipes I’m super fond of.
It’s that time of year again when this hardy perennial is at its peak. , even this year with our colder than average temperature and heavier than average rainfall. Oftentimes dubbed the “pie plant,” rhubarb is truly so much more.
While my husband absolutely salivates over Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, this tart fruit is absolutely stupendous in savory dishes as well. And yes … I didn’t misspeak, I do mean fruit. More on that later.
While in some climates, rhubarb can be found year-round, in the northern sections of the U.S., it is found in markets from April until June. Sometimes into the first few days of July.
Rhubarb is a curious plant to my generation. It’s not grown in every garden as it once was. I imagine that is due to its size and longevity; 10 years or more with very little effort.
How to Grow Rhubarb
Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable that grows well in most of the United States.
If you’d like to grow your own rhubarb, here are a few simple tips to get started. Here is a resource for a more in-depth growing guide.
- Rhubarb grows best in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade.
- Choose a site with soil that is well-draining and fertile. Good drainage is essential.
- Mix compost into the soil.
- Allow plenty of space, rhubarb plants get big, as large as 2 to 3 feet tall and wide.
- Plant crowns so the eyes are about 2 inches below the soil surface with buds facing up.
- Water well at the time of planting.
What to Look For When Harvesting Rhubarb
Thin, red, crisp stalks have the best texture. If stalks are floppy, it indicates they were picked too long ago.
Rhubarb stalks are ready to harvest when they reach between 10 and 15 inches long and the leaves have fully opened.
How to Store
Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for up to 1 week. For longer storage, consider freezing rhubarb to enjoy all year.
What Does Rhubarb Taste Like?
What does it taste like? Rhubarb is a tart-flavored, almost sour fruit best cooked with sugar to sweeten the tartness. It’s perfectly suited to making pies, crumbles, jams, and sauce (recipes for these are at the bottom of this post).
I will admit that I truly disliked rhubarb as a child. As a garden plant, I was fascinated by the gigantic dark green leaves (which are toxic by the way) and their brilliant scarlet stalks that always grew in my German grandmother’s garden in Washington state.
The family would be ecstatic when the stalks ripened and she could make her rhubarb pies. Secretly, I couldn’t wait for the “season” to end for fear I would have to “take a bite.”
In retrospect, with my adult pallet and more discerning tastes, I long for those days now. Endless summer days spent catching grasshoppers with my cousins, dressing up, creating outdoor plays and picnics under the trees; the scorching eastern Washington sun tanning our noses and arms and legs … and the absolute freedom to explore and dream and … just be.
And it all began with the first fruits of the season … rhubarb and its like.
Rhubarb has been used medicinally in China since 2700 BC and is a native plant of western China but also grows prolifically along Russia’s Volga River. Rhubarb has been used as a strong laxative for more than 5,000 years and has an astringent effect on the mucous membranes of the mouth and the nasal cavity.
If you enjoy medicinal gardens, you may also like to take a look at my Medicinal Herb Gardens Series.
Nutritionally, rhubarb is rich in vitamin C and dietary fiber.
Oh … the fruit thing. One would think rhubarb would be classified as a vegetable. One would be wrong. It is considered a fruit, since 1947. A New York court ruled it a fruit for regulation and taxation purposes. Apparently, by classifying it as a fruit, it reduced taxes paid.
To get you in the mood for the season, I’ve posted a recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Pie. It’s a family favorite that is delicious served warm and cold, depending, of course, on the weather. Enjoy … no matter what our spring weather brings.