The Q&A Archives: rhubard

Question: I have rhubard that I planted last year and it sends up stalks about 3 foot tall with blooms on the ends. I grew up in Illinois and have grown rhubard for many years and never seen this before. I'm wondering if the other stalks that don't have the blooms are edible. Also I would like to know what process is necessary to freeze rhubarb.
Thanks, Wilbur

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 (flower and set seed) 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. Leave at least two large stalks per plant to restore energy to the root system for next year. Rhubarb benefits from a mid-summer side dressing of compost or aged-manure. You can repeat the application in the fall. Using organic material will supply nutrients to the roots of the plants in small doses, giving the plants a constant supply of food, resulting in slow, even growth. I hope this info helps.

According to the nutritionist at my local cooperative extension office, here's how to prepare rhubarb for freezing:
"Wash stalks and remove all leaves. Trim and cut into 1-2 inch pieces or lengths you find suitable for freezing. Rhubarb can be frozen either raw or preheated. Heating rhubarb in boiling water for 1 minute and cooling promptly in cold water helps retain color and flavor.

Best Freezing Method(s):
Unsweetened (Plain) Pack
Pack cleaned and prepared rhubarb (either raw or preheated) tightly into suitable containers, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Seal, label and freeze.
Syrup Pack

Pack prepared rhubarb (either raw or preheated) tightly into containers and cover with a medium syrup (3 cups sugar to 4 cups water). Leave 1/2 inch of headspace. Seal, label and freeze.

Suitable Packaging:
Freezer containers should be moisture and vapor resistant and should not be prone to cracking or breaking at low temperatures. Containers should provide protection against absorbing flavors or odors and should be easy to label. Suitable packaging for freezing rhubarb includes freezer-grade plastic bags, rigid plastic containers or glass containers, heavy-duty aluminum foil and foil containers."

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