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Apr 18, 2009 07:47 PM

Plant Rhubarb

I am on a mission to encourage rhubarb, which I find an astonishing number of people have never tasted. You start a bed by digging a big hole, filling it with good mature, and planting rhubarb roots. Thereafter, you will have a supply of rhubarb every spring for fifty years and your bed will keep getting bigger. Don't eat the leaves; they are poisonous. The stems look like pink celery. Cut them into chunks, add a little water and sugar, and stew quietly for 10-15 minutes then use as you would applesauce. The color will be beautiful. Variously you can make pies with rhubarb, mix it with strawberries, or make all kinds of desserts. It's not a fruit but tastes like one. A rhubarb bed gives you something to depend on in life. BTW rhubarb right now in Chicago costs $7.99 lb: grow your own and beat the luxury market rap.

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  1. we love rhubarb too . where can one find the roots in toronto canada

    3 Replies
    1. re: paulabear lists mail-order/online sources for rhizomes, seed, and plants.

      Also, see

      1. re: paulabear

        I bought mine at Home Depot last year (the one at Gerrard & Pape) - I heard it takes 3 years for it be ready to eat... is that true?

        1. re: Apple

          Yes - three years for the plant to mature enough to eat. Planrt in plenty of compost enriched soil. Top dress the plant in the Spring after the last frost. Pull, do not cut, the stalks from the bottom. And - this is very important. DO NOT EAT THE LEAVES - THEY'RE POISONOUS. But my strong advise is don't plant just 1 - plant 3 or more. They last decades in the garden and get bushier each year. I've had 4 rhubarb plants in my garden for 10 years now!! They are just emerging now.

      2. Yea rhubarb! I endorse everyone having rhubarb -- carefree, lasts forever, and it's about the first fruit (think: strawberry rhubarb pie, or rhubarb compote for meat)

        I had a huge plant where I used to live, and forgot about rhubarb, and then thought I should find someone to divide their plant for me, but I found plants at Home Depot yesterday so splurged for 6 bucks and will plant. So, rhubarb for me next year!

        1. Only one of our five plants has survived to year four. I don't know what the heck happened, because I was careful not to harvest the first year, then to be judicious the second. At any rate, that one plant is thriving, and very well may produce enough for our family of two. But I am curious, those of you with experience growing rhubarb, do you have any ideas why four of the five plants didn't come up? To be clear, last year we had two left, the year before three, so this was a gradual process. I'm wondering if I don't have them in a good spot. We live on a hillside with southwestern exposure, and the garden is rocky, but we composted it quite well several years ago before we started, and have top dressed since. We do have deer and rabbits, but they seem not to bother the rhubarb.

          1. Does rhubarb need a lot of sun?

            6 Replies
            1. re: josey124

              rhubarb does best in full sun and slightly acid soil. it should be carefree once established...stop harvesting it after early summer to give plant a chance to stock up for the winter...I planted three roots a couple weeks ago and I am thrilled to see them sprouting. I really hope they do well! I am jealous of my sister's access to rhubarb at her house!
              Rhubarb is one plant that does better in northern latitudes. amyzan, maybe your climate is too mild?

              1. re: kenito799

                Our winter lowest low is usually in the negative teens. It has been warmer and drier than average this past winter, but that's not normal for eastern KS. We are zone 6. Shouldn't that be cold enough for it to grow well?

                1. re: amyzan

                  yes KS is the perfect climate. don't know what the problem is...groundhogs?

                  1. re: kenito799

                    Just bought a rhubarb root in a bag and excited to plant it soon here in Boston. But can I really not harvest any for 3 years??? How much full sun does it need?

                    1. re: Lucymax

                      Full sun is better, but they will tolerate some shade during the day. You don't get a FULL harvest until three years, but you can trim judiciously the first and second years, certainly. The plants are slow to establish, from what I gather, but once established will produce and produce for ten years or so. Last year, I had over five pounds from one plant.

                    2. re: kenito799

                      kenito, I do have moles, hmmmm....

              2. Couldn't resist chiming in on Rhubarb! Totally underrepresented on fine-dining menus and at the family dinner table in my opinion!

                Found this article in the NYT that gives a good overview of how to plant it and what to do with it, too: for anyone interested in giving it a go.

                I see the article says not to plant Rhubarb started from seed since it doesn't produce decent stalks but rather beg a nice start from a friend. But says to be sure it's rhubarb that will produce red/pink pies. And not the stuff that makes greenish pies. I believe the greenish stuff is the 'Victoria' strain that I often see advertised. 'MacDonald' is the preferred strain of many cooks/gardeners.

                I also noted that moles do like rhubarb, so maybe that does account for your disappearing plants. If you sprinkle castor bean powder around that may deter them, although it can be toxic for other animals, I suppose.

                Mine is almost ready to pick and I will be making a brioche crust with rhubarb filling this weekend. And NO strawberries with it, please! (-:

                You know it's springtime when the talk turns to Rhubarb! I love your thread!


                6 Replies
                1. re: dumas

                  Thanks dumas for this article. I am a big Anne Raver fan. However, it was disheartening that most likely I purchased the dreaded green Victoria. So I just ordered a Valentine rhubarb plant from Miller's Nursery.
                  If I'm going to have it for a decade or more, I want a delicious variety!

                  1. re: NYchowcook

                    If I'm not mistaken, somewhere on one of the 2 rbubarb links I posted upthread, Victoria was praised. Note that the color of rhubarb doesn't indicate ripeness. Different varieties mature with different colors.

                    1. re: greygarious

                      I have heard good things about the flavor of Victoria, so it is really an aesthetic matter if you want red rhubarb. Some red varieties may not even taste as good.

                      1. re: kenito799

                        To complicate things further, on a plant show yesterday they said that red rhubarb starts out red, then turns green as it matures. I don't know if that holds true for all red varieties. I do know that the popularity of Strawberry Rhubarb Pie is rooted ina misunderstanding. "Strawberry" in this case referred to a variety of rhubarb, not the berry, which is often not in season at the same time as rhubarb. Bakers who didn't know this combined the two fruits and voila, the most common rhubarb preparation was born.

                  2. re: dumas

                    I just wanted to report that I made our rhubarb pie with the Victoria in our garden and it was indeed quite greenish and not especially beautiful to look at (ugly, really) but I did buy some pink rhubarb and it made up quite nicely in another pie (to compare). I think I have to order a couple of the Valentine or MacDonald plants, although I googled and did not see that anything but Victora plants were readily available on the market.

                    1. re: dumas

                      Miller Nursery out of upstate NY sells Valentine Rhubarb -- I ordered and received bare root, along w/ 2 roses and 1 shrub.

                      after I planted the roses and shrub, I went in the house and checked my order sheet and said: oops! That hunk I threw in the compost bin I thought was packing material was actually my rhubarb root!
                      I just have to dig up a spot to plant it for its permanent home.