by Bethany Bachmann, Field Specialist in Horticulture, firstname.lastname@example.org
Additional information from Dr. Trinklein, MU Adjunct Professor, and Cathy Bylinowski, MU Horticulture Instructor, email@example.com
Rhubarb is in season May to June in Missouri. It is rich in vitamin K which helps in blood clotting and bone formation. Rhubarb also contains vitamin C.
How to Grow Rhubarb-
Spring is a good time to plant rhubarb, a perennial vegetable that favors cool weather. It produces large leaves attached to succulent stalks or petioles that grow from short, thick underground rhizomes.
Rhubarb is a full-sun plant that needs at least six hours of direct sun each day. Since it favors cool weather, rhubarb benefits from some afternoon shade in Missouri. It does not grow well in most of southern Missouri because of higher summer temperatures.
It tolerates a variety of soil types but prefers those high in organic matter. Like most perennial plants, rhubarb needs excellent drainage. Do not grow rhubarb where water will stand at the base of the plant or in soils with high clay content. Garden beds with composted manure and other forms of organic matter improve poorly drained soils and create ideal growing conditions for rhubarb.
Add about 2 to 2.5 pounds of a complete garden fertilizer such as 10-10-10 per 100 square feet of garden area at the start of growing season. A light side dressing of a fertilizer high in nitrogen or application of 2-3 inches of compost or manure after harvest also helps rhubarb stay healthy.
Crown divisions of rhubarb become available in the spring at garden centers, nurseries, and from online nursery catalogues.
Plant rhubarb in a shallow trench. Each dormant growing point, or bud, should be about a half-inch below the soil’s surface. Mature rhubarb plants are large. Space plants 2 to 3 feet apart in rows separated by at least the same distance. Firm the soil around the crowns, then water. Keep plants uniformly moist during establishment and avoid overwatering. Do not harvest rhubarb the first year.
Do not use rhubarb leaf blades for cooking. They contain oxalic acid, which crystallizes in the kidneys. Only the leaf stalks of rhubarb can be eaten safely.
Harvest from healthy rhubarb plants lasts about two months. To harvest, grasp the leaf stalk near its base and pull it to one side while twisting the stalk. Since cuts encourage crown rot, avoid harvesting rhubarb with a knife. Remove the toxic leaf blade soon after harvest. Refrigerate in plastic bags and use the stalks within five to seven days or freeze. Frozen rhubarb lasts about one year.
Remove flower stalks when seen. This forces the plant to put its energies into the leaves and roots instead of flowers and seeds.
Selection of stalks for cooking- Choose stalks that are firm and crisp. Avoid wilted or very thick stalks which can be woodier than others. Unwashed rhubarb should be wrapped with a paper towel and stored in the crisper drawer for best results. Rhubarb stalks can last up to three weeks stored in this manner.
Recipe of the Month
Some people love the sour flavor of rhubarb, as in the recipe below. Others like to combine rhubarb with other fruit, such as strawberries, to lessen the intense sour flavor. You can experiment and see what you like the best.
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.
2. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients with a whisk.
3. In another bowl, mix the yogurt, butter, eggs, and vanilla until smooth. Add to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Gently fold in the rhubarb.
4. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. If desired, sprinkling tops of each with sugar.
5. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.