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Rhubarb: A Wonderful Taste Sensation from the North

Updated on December 10, 2012
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Another recollection of those warm and familiar days growing up, was the rhubarb patch. Some mighty fine things were made in the kitchen from that hardy perennial that originated in Siberia. Many of you from the northern third of the country are familiar with this plant, that thrives on being frozen over all winter.

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Planting

If you don’t have your own patch, it’s easy enough to get one started. You’ll want to start with two- or three-year-old roots that a neighbor will likely be more than happy to give you, as it spreads through seeding. The best time to plant is in spring or fall, and for one family more than three or four plants are sufficient. Dig a hole where it will be handy in the spring to harvest, put in a layer of manure or compost, and then plant the root. Cover with an inch of dirt, space the other roots to plant by three feet. Don’t harvest the first year with the spring planted rhubarb, but the fall planting can be harvested the following spring.

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Harvesting

The edible part is the red stalks. Do not eat large amounts of rhubarb leaves, even when cooked, as they can cause convulsions, coma, and then a rapid death. The root is poisonous, as well. This is NOT an old wives’ tale, so please do not test it.

The stalks are easy to remove, either cut them with a knife or twist off. They can be eaten at any size, but don’t waste the stalks if under eight inches. Most people pick the largest ones first, but leave about a third of the plant to make its food from. The stalks will get woody and seed at the top when it starts to warm up, but pulling off the seed stalks will allow the plant to produce more. It is all right to compost the discarded leaves, but don’t feed them to your livestock.

A 5-year-old plant is ready to be divided. Cut off parts of the root with a sharp bladed shovel and transplant. Rhubarb will seed after the first year, but the seed will reduce stalk production. Unless you’d like to sell the seeds, don’t waste the seeding in favor of stalks.

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Drying

Thinly slice or chop the unpeeled red stalks. You can sweeten them with a honey solution or sprinkle with sugar before drying them for snacks. Spread in a single layer over a drying surface. Dry in a food dehydrator or in the over at 120 degrees F. Rotate the trays as needed. If you dry it without sweetener, add boiling water in an equal amount and allow to stand, then use it as you will.

Rhubarb Leather Snack

Wash and cut up pulp. Good leather mixes with rhubarb are dates, raspberries, or strawberries. Rhubarb will stain a metal sheet, so be certain to place plastic under the fruit first, and don’t allow the rhubarb under the plastic.

To Can

Wash and cut into ½” pieces. Mix in ½ to 1 cup of sugar per quart. Let stand several hours to draw out the juice. Heat to a boil, pour the rhubarb and syrup into hot jars. Cover with hot liquid from its cooking, but leave a ½ “ of headspace. Process in a hot water bath(boiling, or course). Process for either pints or quarts at 1,000 feet above sea level for 15 minutes; 1,001 – 6,000 feet above sea level for 20 minutes, above 6,000 feet for 25 minutes.

To Freeze

Wash stalks and cut into ½” pieces. Blanch for 1 minute if you prefer, but it isn’t necessary. Cool, and then pack into bags or container of choice, close, and place in freezer. You can pack with syrup or a sugar sprinkling, but leave headspace for expansion.

Rhubarb Sauce

Slice trimmed stalks into ½” pieces. If cooked over very gentle heat, rhubarb usually makes its own juices and needs no additional water. Simmer until you have a sauce. Either sweeten to taste or mix with a sweet fruit, like strawberries, raspberries, dates, or figs.

Pies

Fill uncooked flour pie shell with a quart of fresh, frozen, or canned rhubarb. For a sweetener, use ½ to a whole cup of sugar, or mix a half quart of rhubarb with equal amount strawberries, raspberries or dates without sugar. You can top with a lattice or solid crust or leave untopped. Bake for an hour at 350 degrees F. Serve warm or ice cold. My favorite is ice cold!

Compote

Place 1½” pieces of rhubarb in pot with just enough water to cover. Add ½ cup sugar(I like mine a little tart, so add more if you like your cooked fruit sweet). Stir and cook until rhubarb softens and breaks apart. This is great for a breakfast supplement in a dish, on toast, or as a dessert.

Welcome to the world of rhubarb and I hope that you enjoy it as much as I have!

Stawberry Rhubarb Tarts
Stawberry Rhubarb Tarts | Source

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    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, dobo! Rhubarb is so versatile, and I do so adore that sweet-tart taste.

    • dobo700 profile image

      dobo700 4 years ago from Australia

      Rhubarb crumble and ice cream would have to be one of my favourite deserts

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Keith, the stalks are not poisonous, just the root and the leaves to some degree. You will most likely have to buy it in the store, as it is too warm to grow there well.

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      KDuBarry03 4 years ago

      I never had rhubarb before and I'm kind of cautious to eat poisonous foods; however, I'll definitely give it a shot when I get the chance. Interesting Hub!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hyphenbird, I'm sure glad that you're not going without your dose of rhubarb!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Mycee! Unless you're in the northern climes, rhubarb won't grow. If you get the chance to taste it, it really is wonderful and so full of vitamin C.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      Yum! Rhubarb is good stuff. I remember it well from my childhood. Nowadays I do not grow it because I can beg some from friend who have large gardens. Strawberry-Rhubarb pie is one of the best things in the world, with butter dripping off the flaky crust or sharp cheddar melted on top. Now I am making myself hungry!

    • unknown spy profile image

      IAmForbidden 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      that's amazing to know! we never have rhubarb in our place..or i just nevern seen this plant? but totally amazing hub.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, moonlake. Some years are always better than other depending on the weather.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      My husband loves rhubarb pie, me not so much. We have always had good rhubarb but this year it wasn't good. Hoping next year it will be. Enjoyed your hub voted uP!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I'm sorry that you have to be away from that wonderful fruit. Can anyone from home send it to you on dry ice?

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Agreed, Highland Terrier. There are just some things that you should not do without, and rhubarb is one of them.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      This was easy to do, kashmir, as I grew up with it. The northeast had a lot of great things, most for free.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Eddie, thanks! Rhubarb does fairly well in a cooler climate, and you're there.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      You are so right, Mhatter. Wonder why it is losing its popularity? The time invested in making those delectables, perhaps?

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, shiningirisheyes. Do you still eat rhubarb?

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Joyce. Rhubarb is one of the best fruits and so versatile.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I love rhubarb but sadly it does not grow in the south where we live. We always had it growing when we lived in Wisconsin and there is nothing better than strawberry rhubarb sauce with toast in the mornings or a good rhubarb pie. Yummy!

    • Highland Terrier profile image

      Highland Terrier 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      One of my favourite foods. can never get enough of it. Boiled, a little sugar, smoother with vanilla ice cream, Heaven on Earth.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great well written and researched hub filled with useful information on rhubarb . Well done !

      Vote up and more !!! SHARING !

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      We grew Rhubarb in a pot last year and didn't expect it to do well but we had enough this year to freeze ready for Rhubarb and Ginger crumble anytime now.

      Thanks for a wonderful read and enjoy your weekend.

      Eddy.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      I live in SF. Sadly the rhubarb is losing its popularity. My daughter keeps me stocked in a kind of rhubarb jam. It can quickly be converted to other uses.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

      This is dear to my heart. In my childhood, my dear Grandma had a rhubarb garden and I would help her with it. I can still smell the decadent delights drifting from her kitchen window. My first time helping her, she played quite a joke as the minute I knew it was rhubarb I assumed it would taste just as good picked straight from the garden.

      Great hint with the dried and sweetened rhubarb.

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 4 years ago from Southern Nevada

      Great hub, my Mother used to make rhubarb crumble with hot custard, it was always so very good.

      Vote up useful and very interesting good, Joyce.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Glad to hear that you like it, too, Nettlemere. There's so much that youy can do with it, including rhubarb and date jam!

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      There's an area in the UK around Wakefield, which is not too far from me, known as the Rhubarb triangle because it is so well known for producing early 'forced' rhubarb. It deserves a wider appreciation I think, so good to see a hub extolling its virtues.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Now you're talking, Kathy!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I hope so, too, Billy. It also makes a great filling for cream pies, too.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Yes indeedy! This one I have grown and prepared, and love it! Nice job, Deb; hopefully it will introduce this wonderful item to people who have never grown it.

    • kathyinmn profile image

      Kathy 4 years ago from Jordan MN

      we have rubarb growing here too. We make a sauce to pore over ice cream in the summer time.

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