Saturday, March 1, 2014


Mr. B shows off the giant Rhubarb plants in my herb bed.  Horse manure is the magic ingredient here.
If you live on a bit of land that has ever had a gardener living on it, there will probably be a Rhubarb plant somewhere in a corner or out on the edge of the garden. Rhubarb holds a special place in many of our hearts and childhoods. There is a reason that Prairie Home Companion features Rhubarb in nearly every episode. It is a plant rooted deep in the Homesteader tradition.
I think the main reason it is treated like a treasure is that even though Rhubarb isn't actually a fruit, all of it's uses treat it as one. For a sour vegetable, Rhubarb is certainly one of our favorite garden sweet treats here at the Homestead. We make crisps, jam and pies from it until we run out. And if we don't use it all up, I slice it, blanch it and put it in the freezer for the holidays, to pair with frozen raspberries or strawberries. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Medicinally, I suspect that any lucky family associated with a Rhubarb plant during a famine, as in The Great Depression, was spared the horrible effects of Scurvy because of Rhubarb's high Vitamin C content. Very few could afford exotic Oranges and Lemons at the time. Scurvy is a horrible disease which is directly caused by a lack of Vitamin C. Humans cannot make Vitamin C for themselves and must get it through their food.

A member of the Buckwheat family, this vegetable is low in Saturated Fat and Sodium, and very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Magnesium, Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Calcium, Potassium and Manganese. What more could a Homesteader want from a garden plant after months of dried, frozen and canned food?

It has a wonderful fresh taste at a time of the year when our stored apples have all shriveled and browned beyond edibility. No tree will be producing fruit for another 2 months. But there, in the chill of the very early spring soil are the pink buds of our "Pie Plant" pushing up make it's delicious stalks for the pickin'. Just grab a stalk at the base and pull with a twist. This will break it off in such a way that bacteria and pests will be less likely to enter the plant.


Rhubarb grows from a "rhizome" which is a woody, solid mass. The buds sprout from this crown and if you would like to make more plants, you can take a sharp shovel and slice the crown, keeping at least two buds on each division.
And who wouldn't want more of these generous and tasty plants? Even if you don't have a taste for Rhubarb it makes an impressive, low maintenance and Deer Proof addition to any landscape.
When planting starts or divisions, don't let them dry out, put them in the ground with soil only up to the buds, (like the picture above), and water in. If you are planting in the fall, cover the division with 5" or 6" of mulch to protect it from freezing as long as possible.

The next spring you will have a beautiful plant to look at and a few stems for your own "Be Bop A Rebop Rhubarb Pie. "

1 comment:

  1. Nice looking rhubarb. Thick, colorful stalks. You might also enjoy making rhubarb juice. Rather than the cook and jelly bag method I put 12# of cut up rhubarb (fresh or frozen/thawed) in a Mehu Liisa steamer and get 4-5 qts of beautiful crystal clear light pink juice after about 1 hour of steaming. Steamed juice does not have the "ropiness" you get with cooked/strained juice. Straight it is very tart and about 3 Brix. Add 1/4 cup sugar per quart and it is 8-9 Brix (% sugar), still tart but sweet enough for most civilians. Every time we bring a gallon or two to a potluck or event it all disappears. Also very refreshing half and half with sparkling water.


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