How to Grow Rhubarb
As I sit here looking out my kitchen window, it is absolutely pouring outside. Ten minutes ago, it was sunshine and blue skies. Welcome to spring in the Pacific Northwest, right? I love it, rain included. In one corner of our little backyard garden, our four rhubarb plants do too.
Rhubarb thrives in our cool climate, growing like gangbusters. The plants go dormant in the winter, then start poking through the soil in early spring. I love watching them unfurl their leaves, growing into huge green plants in a matter of weeks. Other than an occasional scoop of compost or mulch and plenty of water, they are perfectly happy to be left alone. My kind of plant!
Rhubarb plants are to spring what zucchini plants are to summer: low-maintenance with plenty to use and more to give away. And, like zucchini, I usually chop up dozens of cups with my food processor which I measure into freezer bags. I have visions of pulling the bags out of my chest freezer in the middle of December to make sauce or muffins or pies. Which I never do. As I write this, I have several bags of both chopped rhubarb and shredded zucchini patiently waiting in my freezer. From last year. Sigh.
If you’re an amateur gardener like myself, I’d highly recommend planting some rhubarb in your garden if you have the space. I could take or leave rhubarb personally, but my husband is a big fan. Even if you hate rhubarb, it’ll give your green thumb a nice ego boost because these plants are incredibly hardy. You don’t even have to eat the stalks; you can just enjoy the nice, green foliage.
Despite their whole fruit-vegetable identity crisis, they are very confident plants who don’t mind being separated. In fact, the plants actually thrive when split up, and it’s a good idea to do it every 4-5 years to encourage greater growth. My husband and I split our two plants into four last year. It was a quick hack job, but they still forgave us and are now producing more than the three of us can eat. If you know someone who grows rhubarb, ask them if you can dig out a root division to transplant in your garden. This is best done in the early spring.
If you don’t have your own rhubarb plant, there are several different options to track down this strange spring vegetable. Although locally grown, the rhubarb stalks I found in the produce departments of both WinCo and Safeway were expensive (about $2/lb) and had definitely seen better days. A better bet would be your local farmer’s market or rhubarb-growing friend/neighbor.
Ready to start cooking? Here are some awesome rhubarb recipes:
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