Rhubarb is a wonderful plant, with many uses and application. This web site is all about rhubarb. Since June 1994 these web pages have been available to anyone interested in gaining an understanding and appreciation of this fine vegetable. This compendium is a collection of rhubarb information from many sources.

There are four easy ways to find what you need. You can search for it, use the main index Pages, select a Tag or review the Archives to find rhubarb articles or rhubarb recipes

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Culinary uses of Rhubarb

Rhubarb or "pie plant" is prized for use in pies, tarts, and sauces. Only the petioles are eaten, although herbal remedies use the leaves and roots. The high levels of oxalic acid and other compounds within the leaves are toxic to humans. The petioles contain lower levels of oxalic acid and, primarily, malic acid.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Rhubarb Nutritional Information

Rhubarb is 95% water and contains a fair source of potassium, contributes minor amounts of vitamins, and is low in sodium. Rhubarb's crisp sour stalks are rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber and calcium, although the calcium is combined with oxalic acid and so is not easily absorbed by the body. Rhubarb is somewhat acidic (pH 3.1-3.2) but in most recipes this is normally offset by sugar. One cup diced Rhubarb contains about 26 calories.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Rhubarb Seedpods

Rhubarb plants will occasionally send up seed stalks with flowers in the middle of the plants. These stalks may not grow on young plants but are common on plants that are 3-4 years old and older. Some varieties of rhubarb are more likely to flower than others. Victoria is known to be a prolific flowering variety. Allowing the plant to complete flowering will reduce the vigor of the plant and shorten its stalk producing season. If the plant is grown as an ornamental the tall stalks of flowers (Victoria has white (greenish)) is quite impressive. But if you are growing rhubarb as a vegetable for the stalks, then the flowers and seed stalks should be cut out as soon as they start forming. The plant may still continue to produce more flower stalks throughout the spring, so keep cutting them. Contrary to popular opinion, rhubarb plants do NOT become poisonous after flowering starts. The leaf stalks can still be cut and used and the leaves themselves should be discarded (composted) as they are always poisonous.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Growing Rhubarb from Seed

Rhubarb plants may be started from seed. Plants started from seed typically take 2 years to get a harvest, although in the proper climate one can get satisfactory results in one growing season. Also, propagation of rhubarb from seed is not recommended, as rhubarb seedlings do not retain the characteristics of the parent plants (see comments on Varieties). It is best to propagate with planting divisions obtained from splitting the crowns as described in the next section.
Step by Step: Growing Rhubarb from seeds

Monday, March 25, 2019

Propagating Rhubarb

Rhubarb can be propagated by several means: Dividing the root mass, growing rhubarb from seeds, or by Tissue Culture. Of course, you can always purchase rhubarb plants or rhizomes ready to plant in your garden. See the list of sources for a few of the mail order companies that sell rhubarb.
Dividing and Thinning Rhubarb

Rhubarb can propagated by planting pieces obtained by dividing the crown. Pieces are taken from 4-5 year old crowns. You can divide earlier if you desire more plants. Dividing can be done either in the spring or the fall with equal success, but I have found early spring is best. I wait until early growth is just starting so I can see where to best divide the root mass. Dig up the crowns and roots being careful not to damage the crown. Cut the roots into 4 to 8 pieces. It is recommended to split dormant crowns between large buds or "eyes" so that at least a 2-inch cross section of storage root is left with each bud. Be careful of is not to break off the delicate buds which are easily broken, but otherwise the roots are quite tough and will tolerate quite a bit of rough handling. Very small buds will give small plants for the first few years after planting, while four to ten new roots can usually be obtained from crowns that have been grown a few years. Root pieces should be protected from drying or freezing if they are not to be planted immediately. When dividing crowns for re-planting, it is important to mark the vigorous plants in June and use them as planting stock the following spring. Crowns should not be divided from diseased plants.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Forcing Rhubarb

Rhubarb can be grown year round. You can grow tender stalks out of season by "forcing" rhubarb at home during the late winter and early spring. Forcing is most successful with large diameter roots. Dig up the roots of plants that are to be forced (three-year-old plants are best) keeping excess soil on the roots to prevent damage from subzero freezing. Pot them in large pots and leave them outside exposed to several hard freezes. After the roots are thoroughly chilled, take them indoors to a warm (with a temperature of 50 to 65­ F), dark place (a cellar, hot bed, etc.) and cover them with peat, soil, or sawdust. A wooden bushel basket makes an ideal container for forcing. Keep them moist. Harvest the stalks when they are 12 to 18 inches high. The leaves will be small and the petioles will be tender and uniformly bright pink. The harvest period for forced roots is about one month. After the harvest set the plants outside and protect them with mulch. They can be replanted in the spring. For longer harvests bring a few roots in at one time. To get enough to use in most recipes you will need to force 3-4 plants.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Composting Rhubarb Leaves

Many folks have been concerned about adding rhubarb leaves to their compost piles. If the leaves are poisonous, then maybe they are bad for compost as well, since rhubarb stalks contain a high concentration of oxalic acid which slightly toxic, right? What actually occurs when rhubarb is added to a compost pile is that the oxalic acid is mostly broken down, diluted and pH balanced rather quickly. People don't eat compost piles as a rule anyway, and even if a child were to eat compost dirt, there would be problems other than from and remaining oxalic acid from the decomposing rhubarb stalks. Experience has  shown that the level of acid does not inhibit the microbial action of composting. Compost piles which were nearly all rhubarb leaves and stalks have decomposed very nicely and the compost has behaved like ordinary compost and no inhibition of plant growth was noticed from the compost.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Growing Rhubarb

Rhubarb is a cool season, perennial plant that is very winter hardy and resistant to drought. Its crop is produced from crowns consisting of fleshy rhizomes and buds. Following a season of growth the rhubarb crown becomes dormant and temperatures below 40°F (5°C) are required to stimulate bud break and subsequent growth. The first shoots to appear in the spring are edible petioles and leaves. These emerge sequentially as long as temperatures remain cool (below 90°F / 32°C). As temperatures increase, top growth is suppressed, even appearing dormant in periods of extreme heat. With declining temperatures in later summer, foliage growth resumes.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Things that are not rhubarb

Rhubarb is the common name for several different plants. Most of these are incorrectly called rhubarb, or have names that somehow relate them to rhubarb because they look like rhubarb. Here is a short list of some of the plants that I know are confused with garden rhubarb.
  • Beta vulgaris - Spinach rhubarb - Not a rhubarb at all but has rhubarb like leaf stems (thick and bright red). 
  • Arctium lappa - Greater burdock, Edible burdock, or Lappa Burdock - A burdock that is commonly cultivated in gardens for its root used as a vegetable (the leaves and roots are also edible). This plant is commonly found in the wild (its a weed) and when young is easily confused for rhubarb.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Rhubarb Background

Rhubarb is a plant name for the many different species of Rheum, growing in the wild in the mountains of the Western and North-western provinces of China and in the adjoining Tibetan territory and in cultivation in much of Europe and the United States.

Rhubarb is a vegetable with a unique taste that makes it a favorite in many pies and desserts. It originated in Asia over 2,000 years ago. It was initially cultivated for its medicinal qualities, it was not until the 18th century that rhubarb was grown for culinary purposes in Britain and America. Rhubarb is often commonly mistaken to be a fruit but rhubarb is actually a close relative of garden sorrel, and is therefore a member of the vegetable family. Rhubarb is rich in vitamin C and dietary fiber.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Rhubarb Varieties

Rhubarb, Rheum x coltorum, is available in many cultivars (named hybrid varieties). One important characteristic of the different cultivars is the stalk color which can range from red to green. In between colors are often called pink or speckled. A deep red petiole (stalk) is the more popular among consumers, but these plants are often accompanied by poor growth and yield. Green varieties are often much more productive. Many folks often assume the red stemmed rhubarb is sweeter than other colors but color and sweetness are not necessarily related. The Victoria variety, which is one of the greenest varieties, can produce some very sweet stems.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Rhubarb Species

Rhubarb is available in many different species. Here at The Rhubarb Compendium we are primarily concerned with common garden rhubarb, Rheum x cultorum. Below you will find a list of common, and some not so common, rhubarbs. Not all of these are suitable for making pies and tarts. Many are strictly for ornamental use.
  • Rheum rhaponticum, Rheum x hybridum, Rheum rhubarbarum, Rheum x cultorum - Rhubarb, Garden Rhubarb, Bastard Rhubarb, Sweet Round-Leaved Dock, English Rhubarb, Wine Plant - Strong perennial, with thick clustered roots. Similar in medicinal action to Turkey Rhubarb or Chinese Rhubarb, though milder. It is derived from Rheum palmatum, and from Rheum officinale. It has blunt, smooth leaves; large, thick roots, running deep into the ground, reddish-brown outside and yellow within, and stems 2 to 3 feet high, jointed and purplish. The flowers are white.