Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Pie Plant: Rhubarb

Rhubarb is one of the first crops to enjoy in early spring.  It's one of my favorite.  I just made a rhubarb cobbler last night.  The only thing better than that is rhubarb and strawberry cobbler.  Rhubarb sauce is great on ice cream and pancakes.  Rhubarb sauce can be canned and enjoyed in the winter or rhubarb stalks sliced freeze well.  This is one perennial you do not want  to be without.  It's very easy to care for, has few diseases, and makes a great landscape plant.

Purchase rhizomes of rhubarb in early spring and plant in a fertile soil.  Make the planting hole bigger than what you need and mix in compost, peat moss, and a dry organic fertilizer. (1 part blood meal, 2 parts bone meal and azomite or greensand)  The rhizomes are covered with 2 inches of soil.  Rhubarb is a heavy feeder so in early spring fertilize with fish emulsion when established.  In late spring side dress with a handful of dry organic fertilizer and spread a layer of compost in watering well.  Rhubarb can tolerate shade (I recommend planting in part shade in New Harmony) and needs even moisture.

 Its one of the first plants to wake up in early spring.  During cool, spring weather stalks develop red color.  In summer growth slows, stalks turn green, and it sends up flower stalks which you remove.  In fall vegetation continues to grow, stalks turn red, and it will die back at 26F.  Do not eat the leaves they are poisonous.

 Divide crowns every 5 years or when stalks become thin.  Harvest 1/3 of petioles (stalks) the first year.  Up to ½ when established.  Twist outside stalks to harvest.  Harvest for 6-8 weeks in spring or fall but not both.  Enjoy this delicious perennial!

Red stalks of rhubarb.

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