Join THE #gardenchat!
BWS tips button
Home Kitchen Garden

Follow me on Twitter: @cityslipper

My Book!

I wrote a book about preserving food. The same step-by-step instruction and full-color photos you find in my blog. Buy it at Yes, You Can 

Links to planters at selected vendors:

Garden-Fountains.com

MasterGardening.com

 

 

Sprouts

Amazon.com is a terrific source for certified organic seeds intended for home sprouting. Dress up salads, stir-fry, sandwiches, spreads, and other dishes with homegrown sprouts of all kinds. Follow this link to order your sampler or to find home sprouting kits.

 

Small Kitchen Garden Store

 

 

 

 

Small Kitchen Garden Rhubarb

Rhubarb in my Small Kitchen GardenWhen you buy a house from a kitchen gardener, you may find a rhubarb patch in the yard. Rhubarb requires relatively little maintenance, and it rewards you with a delicious, fruity crop when most other food crops are just sprouting.

Do you have rhubarb in your small kitchen garden? I can’t imagine my garden without it. I’m certain that Rhubarb is almost strictly a food of gardeners; I don’t remember seeing it in the produce section in Boston’s grocery stores when I lived in Boston—or at the farmers’ market near Faneuil Hall.

In rural Pennsylvania, you can buy rhubarb in a grocery store and at the farmers’ market during the month or two it’s in season. I’m always overwhelmed by the price of rhubarb, and I note that it rarely has a prominent position in the produce section or on a farmer’s table at the market.

It seems unlikely you’ll experience rhubarb by chance. In my experience, people who know rhubarb grew up eating it at home. I imagine, however, that a lot of people have acquired rhubarb plants along with houses they’ve bought; if a former owner planted rhubarb, it’s quite likely still growing there. That gives the uninitiated a commitment-free excuse to try rhubarb.

If you’ve never tasted the stuff, don’t invest in plants. Rather, find a neighbor who’s willing to share—or buy some rhubarb stalks somewhere—and make some rhubarb sauce. The flavor might surprise you… but if you don’t care for rhubarb sauce, don’t give up on rhubarb. I’ve seen people who won’t touch rhubarb sauce devour rhubarb pie… and strawberry rhubarb pie, jams containing rhubarb, and rhubarb breads. I suspect they’d also go for a good rhubarb cake, but I’ve never seen a rhubarb cake, so I can’t be sure.

About Rhubarb

Once you’ve decided you like rhubarb, you’re ready to commit to one of the most rewarding home kitchen garden plants. Around here, you can buy rhubarb plants in nursery pots at garden stores and nurseries. A single plant runs about six to nine dollars, depending on where you buy it.

Small Kitchen Garden fertilizerIf you cut sod when you dig a hole to plant rhubarb, place the sod, grass-side-down, in the bottom of the hole before adding soil and compost. The sod will provide excellent nutrition for the young plant as it gets established in its new home.

Rhubarb grows thick, tuberous roots that don’t like to be wet for extended periods. It also likes lots of sunlight and very rich soil. My dad used to dump raw horse manure around his plants to make them happy in the spring, and they never complained.

When you plant, select a place where the soil drains quickly. This is important: All my plants died one very rainy season when standing water collected for days on end. The next season, I planted in a slightly raised bed, but still lost two out of four plants when another rainy stretch saturated the soil.

Dig a hole at least six inches deeper than the nursery pot and about twice its diameter. If you cut sod to start the hole, put the sod grass-side-down in the bottom of the hole and cover it with soil and compost. If you didn’t cut sod for the hole, fill with compost and soil until the hole is as deep as the nursery pot. You should set the rhubarb roots two-to-three inches below the soil line, so if the nursery pot is full to the brim, make the hole you plant in a bit deeper.

Remove your new plant from the pot, set it in the middle of the hole, and fill around it with compost and soil until the hole is full. If there are young rhubarb stalks already growing from the roots, it’s OK for the soil to cover the bottoms of the stems. The stems themselves may not like it, but in the long-run, the plant will adjust to this planting depth; ideally, the top of the root should be three inches under ground.

Water rhubarb plants heavily for a few weeks after planting until you see new, vigorous growth.

Low-Maintenance Bounty

It’s hard to kill a rhubarb plant by accident. I’ve never seen one burn from getting too much fertilizer so fertilize heavily in the spring, two or three times through the growing season, and again when you put your garden to bed in the fall. If you eschew chemical fertilizers add compost or manure often. Rhubarb grows most aggressively in mid-to-late spring, and may look pretty beat in the heat of summer. By fall, a rhubarb patch can look shot as the leaves wilt and stalks shrivel. I usually have some rhubarb-looking growth until fall, but everything above soil wastes away well before snow falls.

Don’t let the plant’s summer droopiness cause you to overlook it when watering. If the rest of your small kitchen garden needs water, so does the rhubarb. Give your plants occasional deep watering especially during dry spells.

Home Kitchen Garden Rhubarb In LeavesRhubarb emerges within a few weeks of the ground thawing – even from under a thick mulch. I was just starting vegetable seeds indoors under lights when I snapped this photo in early April.

Once stalks and leaves die back at the end of the season, mulch over the area with compost, manure, leaves, or grass clippings. Mulch will protect roots from early deep frosts, and provide some nutrition as young stalks push through in the spring. Rhubarb wakes up very early, and may be the first food you harvest in a season.

And that’s one of the most compelling reasons to plant rhubarb in your small kitchen garden: you do nothing to it from fall until spring, but it wakes up and quickly gives you a delicious fruit-like crop. This year, I harvested my first rhubarb stalks in early May while just a few of my herbs and vegetables were starting to grow. Only hardy herbs are ready in my garden as early as the rhubarb is.

In case you’ve never harvested rhubarb and made sauce, I wrote a blog entry detailing how. You can find it under the title Eat Rhubarb from Your Home Kitchen Garden. If you prefer watching over reading, here’s a video I created that explains how to make rhubarb sauce. It’s about seven minutes long. I hope you find it useful:

Here are links to articles that describe other uses for rhubarb:

  • Rhubarb Juice: A Many Spendored Thing – by David Perry. Many of you have heard or read me raving about rhubarb juice, a simple, healthy nectar that Dave Brown, wooden bowl maker, bread baker, birder, master canoeist, photographer, storyteller, life magician and director of the Wildbranch Writer’s Workshop first introduced me to…

  • Back to the Locabar: Rhubarb Margarita I’ve been hinting for weeks that I wanted a special cocktail for my birthday. Last summer we got so used to fresh, seasonal ingredients that our long winter presented a special challenge for the Cocktail Study Club. More often than not, Friday night rolled around and Charlie would say, “How about a martini?” I love his martinis but enough is enough….

Technorati Tags: , ,

6 Responses to “Small Kitchen Garden Rhubarb”

  • [...] visit my blog post Small Kitchen Garden Rhubarb for a discussion about planting and growing your own rhubarb. addthis_url = [...]

  • Leah King:

    How long may you cut rhubarb in the summer. I had heard that you harvest it until the longest day which is the first day of summer. Is this true? waiting for a response. Thanks, Leah King

  • admin:

    There’s no absolute rule about how late into the season you can harvest rhubarb. As long as I can remember, I’ve believed that the stalks become bitter as summer becomes hotter, but I’ve never harvested rhubarb that tasted any more bitter than “normal” rhubarb. I stop harvesting when leaves start to look droopy and yellowed, and when there are no obvious (or only one or two) new leaves/stalks emerging at the base of the plant.

    About a month ago, my plants looked “thinned” and spent for the season (sadly, I have only two plants), but they have continued to send up new growth, and I’m expecting one more harvest. Then I’ll watch and see what develops. I’ve noticed that stalks may become “woody” or look dry, and that they may develop blemishes during hot weather. All these are signs that it’s time to stop harvesting and let the plants rest until next spring.

  • Faye:

    I have loved rhubarb sauce my whole life thanks to my mother making it when I was a child. I make the sauce the same way Mom always did–just as you show here in the video–but add a handful of raisins to the hot mixture and sprinkle in dry strawberry jello, about 1/2 of a small package to approximately 4 cups of cooked sauce. Add sugar to taste as shown in the video. The raisins plump nicely and are a wonderful flavor complement as, of course, is the strawberry-flavored jello. The jello also serves to add a nice red color and slightly thickens the sauce. You’ll want to play with proportions according to your taste but this is a basic guideline. This sauce is refreshing breakfast, cold from the refrigerator, served with buttered toast. I like to spoon the sauce onto my toast bite-by-bite. Yummy!

  • Linda:

    This year, my mother’s rhubarb plant grew very large with huge leaves and a flower, which it had never done before. I found that you are to take off the flower, which we have done. My question now, is about the huge leaves. Are the stalks going to be less flavorful since the leaves got so big or doesn’t it matter? What would have caused the leaves to grow so large? Was it because it flowered this year? My mother’s plant is an older one, about 20 years old and this is the first year it has produced such large leaves and a flower. It also was transplanted into a different area at the end of last year but is on the same side of the garden and receives the same amount of sun.

Leave a Reply

Subscribe…

...in a reader:     

...via eMail:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

 

contests & sweeps for moms
Contests & Sweepstakes

 

Business Directory for Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

Associations