The Q&A Archives: Rhubarb Bolts Early

Question: Our rhubarb is coming into its fourth season. For the last two years, which I thought would be productive years, a long stem forms with a large "pod" at the end of it. I was told when it "bolts" you can no longer harvest stalks, but our rhubarb bolts before we even begin to harvest.

Answer: To perform best, rhubarb needs a long, cool spring and rich soil. You can begin harvesting stalks as soon as the leaves start to unfold to a flat surface. Plants generally bolt because temperatures have gotten too warm or day length reaches a limit for their species, and they "think" it's time to go to seed. When the blossom stalk emerges, cut it off at its base to extend the season. When plants bolt, they often start tasting bitter (lettuce is an example), but I'm not aware of any reason why you can't harvest the rhubarb--it's so sour without sugar, anyway! Leave at least five large leaves per plant to restore energy to the root system for next year. I hope this info helps.

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