Rhubarb is a perennial that grows 2 to 4 feet tall with large, smooth, heart-shaped leaves. The plant grows from large, reddish-brown rhizomes that have yellow interiors. The Rhubarb leaves begin to emerge when temperatures begin to exceed 40ºF in early spring. The thick red or green stalks grow up to 18 inches long and 1-2 inches in diameter, with leafs that grow up to a foot or more in width. The foliage dies back to the ground each winter. The only edible part of this plant is the stalk. The leaves are poisonous because they contain a toxic amount of oxalic acid. Rhubarb leaves should never be eaten raw or cooked.
Nutritionally speaking, Rhubarb is a powerhouse of nutrition - most notably calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium as well as vitamins A, C, E, and K. A 100 grams contains only 21 calories so rhubarb is often recommended for people trying to lose weight. (See the USDA Nutrient Values Below.)
Rhubarb is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin K1, which is important for blood clotting and bone health. Rhubarb also offers 13% RDA of vitamin C and 8.5% RDA for Manganese. As you can see by the USDA Chart below, Rhubarb offers a great deal of nutrients for only a 100 grams of Rhubarb.
Rhubarb is an easy perennial vegetable to grow. Rhubarb plants like rich, well drained soil that is high in organic matter. Crowns should be planted 3' apart and 2" below the surface of the soil. If new plants, do not harvest the first year; wait until the plants are well established either the second or third year.
Plants should be fertilized in the spring after the growth begins and again in the summer months. Flowers should be removed when they first appear to keep the leaves growing strong. Keep grasses and weeds away from the Rhubarb.
In the winter, plants appreciate mulch after the ground freezes to prevent heaving. Every fourth or fifth year plants should be divided to avoid crown rot and to keep the plants vigorous. Well maintained plants have few pests. Leaf spots generally will not affect yield.
Rhubarb makes wonderful jams, sauces, pie, breads and desserts and their juice makes a delicious beverage by itself or added to teas or lemonade. The tartness of Rhubarb generally requires a sweetner to be added to it.
Rhubarb can be picked and stored unwashed in the refrigerator crisper for up to two weeks.
Rhubarb can be washed, then sliced and frozen, with or without sugar. Frozen Rhubarb can be kept easily for six months.
Incorporate this wonderful vegetable in your diet today!