Our family loves rhubarb! My husband’s favorite way to eat it is right out of the garden. He’ll munch on a stalk of rhubarb as he walks around the garden inspecting his growing treasures. But not me ~ It makes me pucker just watching him! I’m just not that brave. We do however LOVE rhubarb pie and rhubarb cobbler. To me, it’s a true sign that summer has arrived when I cut my first batch of rhubarb from the garden.
Did you know that rhubarb leaves are poisonous? They contain high concentrations of oxalic acid crystals which can cause serious problems if eaten. These crystals can cause the tongue and throat to swell, preventing breathing. Realistically it would take a large amount of leaves to cause death but just a small amount to cause you to become sick; so dispose of leaves properly when there are children or pets around.
Rhubarb plants will send up seed stalks that have flowers in the middle of the plants. Some people call this ‘going to seed’. Allowing the plant to complete this flowering will reduce the growth and vigor of the plant and shorten its producing season. If you are growing rhubarb for the stalks, then the flowers should be cut as soon as they are forming. Cut the flower stalk off as close to the main plant as possible. Others like to leave the flowering seed stalks grow to add an extra layer of texture to their landscaping.
The harvesting of rhubarb depends on the variety grown as well as the location and temperature of the area you live in. In general, harvest begins in late May or early June. Don’t remove more than 2/3 of the developed stalks at one time or the plant will have a difficult time recovering. If not used immediately you can store the rhubarb in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks. You can also soak the stalks in cold water to ‘refresh’ it before cooking it.
Rhubarb has a wide variety of uses. It has an extreme tartness so it requires sweetening when used in jams, jellies, pies, cobblers, breads and sauces. I use a smaller amount of the sugar called for in a recipe as we enjoy that tartness that rhubarb has to offer. One of my all time favorites is warm rhubarb cobbler with a dip of vanilla ice cream. Yummmmm…..
Some interesting tidbits about rhubarb taken from official histories of the empirical dynasties of the Chinese:
*Rhubarb is given to the Wu emperor of the Liang dynasty to cure his fever but only after warning him that rhubarb, being a potent drug, be taken in moderation.
* During the Ming dynasty a Ming general tries (and fails) to commit suicide by eating rhubarb medicine.
* During the Song dynasty rhubarb is taken in times of the plague.
*thought for the day*
It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown vegetable.