Archive for the 'Soil' Category

Hardy Rhubarb Heralds Spring

Author: Meera, November 8, 2012

Leaves unfurling from newly planted rhubarb


I will never forget the long and tortuous Missouri winters of my youth when for days on end the gray sky seemed to hang as low as the horizon line. With hope and great anticipation of nature’s renewal, I waited on spring. Inevitably I would notice the green shoots of tulips, grape hyacinths, and paper white narcissus pushing up through the cold earth.


Gradually, the gray lifted revealing blue. The earth warmed. The strawberries swelled and ripened. The spring peepers kept a chorus down by the pond. Then, inevitably, my grandmother would grab a basket and motion for me to join her in the garden. There we twisted and pulled thick red stalks of rhubarb–one of the earliest vegetables of spring–for pie-making. Grandma always served a dessert at every meal, even breakfast when the white icing she had slathered on just-baked cinnamon rolls would cascade down like melting snow.


So it might not come as a surprise to people who know me that when my husband and I talked about what vegetables we would include in our Henny Penny Farmette garden, I told him rhubarb for jam, jelly, and, of course, pies like my grandmother used to make. We waited until our second year here to put in the rhubarb, and we will let the plants grow for at least a year before harvesting. Next spring, we expect to be able to harvest stalks that are at least an inch thick, possibly for one to two months.


If you’ve never grown rhubarb, you need to know that rhubarb leaves are poisonous. Only the celerylike stalks, with their tart (but also sweet) flavor are used for cooking. You also won’t grow rhubarb from seed but rather from root divisions obtainable at your local nursery. Plant the root divisions (also called crowns) in holes that are about three feet deep and three feet wide and include compost and aged manure with soil. Use mulch to keep the roots moist and to protect them during a hard freeze.


I love the elephant ear-sized leaves and the red stalks (although the stalks can also be green). Best of all, the plant is easy to grow and almost pest free. My favorite variety of rhubarb is the Cherry Red because it is a prodigious producer and has an intensely sweet flavor.

read comments ( 0 )