Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Got Rhubarb?

There are numerous varieties of rhubarb out there, though Victoria seems to be the most prevalent in my corner of the world.  Others I sometimes see include Mammoth, Macdonald, and Strawberry.  (Pardon the fuzzy leaf on this stem at left. With a "feels like" temperature of near freezing (34℉) I didn't bother taking more than one shot.)  Stalks can be more red or green, and varieties vary greatly in their tartness.  Rhubarb is happy when grown in the North as it requires a cold period to break dormancy.  Full sun will turn out the largest yield, but partial shade is generally tolerated by this plant; it also prefers a rich, well draining soil and a pH in the 6.0 - 6.5 range.

Like asparagus, this perennial is best obtained as a plant (rhizome) rather than grown from seed if you are looking to harvest it in it's first years of residence in your garden.  I have read to "pull" the stalks from the plant rather than cutting the stalk at the base in many sources, yet others still insist a harvest via the knife.   (I find this contradictory information annoying, but probably not harmful to any great extent.  I guess I will just have to wait and see what works for me, what methods do you all use for harvesting?)

Once harvested Rhubarb should be used quickly or frozen.  To temporarily store in the fridge first wrap the stem in a lightly moistened paper towel and seal in a plastic bag.  If there is any leaf fragment remaining on the stalk remove it before storing.  There are more culinary uses for rhubarb than I could possible mention, though my favorite last year was Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble, the recipe can be found here at the Got Crumble?  post.  I find a generous pinch of cloves to be the deal maker in that crumble.  Yummm.  Here is a bit on the medicinal uses and folklore on Rhubarb:


Rhubarb Root is an ancient and gentle, but extremely effective, laxative. It supports good colon health by cleansing it and treating constipation, and in smaller doses, its astringents have eased DiarrheaBleedingand Hemorrhoids. Rhubarb Root is considered a wonderful cleanser for the intestines, bowels, liver and blood, helping to rid the system of accumulated toxins. It is also an anti-microbial, antibacterial, and antibiotic and antiviral, and it may even help to improve your digestion.

 Medical Uses:

The tannins in Rhubarb Root produce astringent properties, and when taken in small doses, the tannin activity in Rhubarb supersedes the anthraquinone activity, thus leading to a lower water content of stool, and this action has been effective in relieving Diarrhea. Moreover, the pectin content in Rhubarb Root is also thought to work well with tannins as an anti-Diarrhea. As an effective astringent, Rhubarb Root has been used to alleviate Hemorrhoids, internal Bleeding and inflamed mucous membranes.
Rhubarb Root is considered an "alterative" or agent that helps to gradually and favorably alter the course of an ailment or condition. It helps to modify the process of nutrition and excretion and restore normal bodily function, acting to cleanse and stimulate the efficient removal of waste products from the system. As such, it not only cleanses the intestinal tract and blood, but it is also thought to cleanse the liver by encouraging bile flow. The herb is said to enhance gallbladder function and relieve both liver and gallbladder complaints by releasing an accumulation of toxins.
The bitter principle included in Rhubarb Root is said to stimulate good digestion and improves the appetite. It is considered a "stomachic" that relieves gastric disorders, improves the appetite and gives tone and strength to the stomach. Rhubarb Root is thought to be particularly effective in treating atonic dyspepsia, helping the digestive organs when in a condition of torpor and debility. In addition, the herb is also believed to encourage gastric flow, which also aids the digestive process.
Rhubarb Root is considered an anti-microbial that has been used to treat internal pinworms, threadworms and ringworms.


Rhubarb Root is thought to possess antibacterial, antibiotic and antiviral properties. In vitro studies, the anthraquinone in Rhubarb exhibited virucidal activity against HSV I, measles, polio and influenza virus; and the rhein component showed antibacterial activity against Bacteroides fragilis, but thus far, no conclusions have yet been published.
Rhubarb Root may be used externally to fight inflammation and infection (skin eruptions, boils and carbuncles, etc.) and to promote healing (wounds, Cold Sores and burns, etc.).

WHO KNEW?!?  ☻

I snuck the camera under the hoops this morning to see how all the garden babies are doing in their new home, all seem to be well!  I also peaked in on the sprouts in the Wintersown jug and per Rebecca's suggestion I checked the leaves out....basil.  Hmph.  I have yet to have any tomato other than Sungold seed from Johnny's germinate.  This is making me nervous, especially of the Wintersown SASE tomato seeds.  Those suckers had warm weather all last week and didn't budge.  Not good.


Rebecca said...

Oh dear, that IS worrisome about the tomatoes! It's getting late to start again. If nothing happens, pick some stuff off my list and I'll send 'em to you. I planted WAY more than I have room for. :-)

I've never once in my life tasted rhubarb, but I hear it makes a dandy pie. I'll put that on my 'To Try' list.

Kelly said...

Rebecca, thank-you for the very generous offer, but I am happy to report it won't be necessary. I dug a bit and found most of the seeds, many have germinated. They somehow fell way down into the blocks this time. Maybe from watering? Anyway, after some excavation I hope to see lots of green in a day or two. :)

I tried it as an adult for the first time last year and really liked it, and now I have 5 plants going in. :)

Did you ever find the orange thyme seeds? I thought I posted to you about them on your blog, but I must have left before the comment went through to the post, or I am just not remembering where I left it.....anyway, I offered you a few of my seeds if I can find a secure way to pack them- they are SO TINY! I am pretty sure I have some left, let me know!

Rebecca said...

That's great! Some of my pepper seeds did that, I'd given up them when they started popping through the soil! Thank goodness I hadn't thrown it out and started over yet.

Hmm, I didn't see anything about orange thyme..but I had some trouble with the comments in the beginning, some of them just wouldn't post. It might have simply never gone through.
I've got Orange Spice and Orange Balsam thyme that I got from Richters, I'm a total thyme nut. If there is another type of orange thyme out there I'd love to grow that, too!

Michelle said...

Love the photo under the hoop! Bug's eye view! So I'm eavesdropping on your conversation with Rebecca... ;)....what is orange thyme?!

Kelly said...

Thyme with an orange flair! Sounds delicious doesn't it?

Rebecca said...

They need to make a scratch-n-sniff computer. I could take a picture, but it just doesn't do it justice. I've got Oregano thyme and Lavender thyme, too!
I mentioned I'm a thyme nut, right? ;-)

Erin said...

Rhubarb still makes me laugh! Where I'm from in Minnesota everyone grows it and RAVES about it! I personally have only tried it once in Strawberry-Rhubarb Something or Other. What I want to know is this: does anyone know what straight rhubarb tastes like? Is it good? Can you even eat it that way? I have an aversion to most things mixed with sugar and am not much of a sweets person, but yet apparently I will be judged worthy by the stand of rhubarb I grow when I move back to MN, LOL! So is it always mixed with other stuff? I will admit that it is GORGEOUS, though...

Kelly said...

Rebecca- i love herbs. Pineapple sage is another one I like....I have been keeping an eye out for lav. thyme, I will add that catalog to my 'to do' list. The stuff I have must be one of the types you mentioned...i will try and verify.

Erin, you have me chuckling because EVERYBODY grew 'the barb' in Wisconsin and I didn't like it as a kid. As I mentioned, never tried it again until last year. Alone it is a bit sweet with some bitter, sour tasting....tangy flavor?? The exact flavor depends on time of harvest and variety, but I have only seen it with sugar in recipes (sauce, bread, pie, topping etc...).

Erin said...

hmmm, bread you say? I bet I could take it in a muffin!

Annie's Granny said...

I always pulled my rhubarb stalks, never cut them. And I always pulled the seed stalk. Love, love LOVE rhubarb pie, but only with an egg mixed in. Rhubarb, sugar, flour and stir it all up with a lightly beaten egg, pour it all in a pie shell and bake. It cuts the bitterness. I used to have a rhubarb strawberry upside down cake, made with strawberry Jello and marshmallows. The kids loved it! I would never eat rhubarb raw or without sugar, it's worse than sucking lemons.

Kelly said...

Lol, worse than sucking on lemons- you are funny granny! I will have to try your version of pie next year (when I actually get a harvest)!

Thomas said...

I'm growing Victoria myself. Well draining soil you say???? Then I have know idea where I'm gonna put mine. hahaha.

Kelly said...

Lol, ahh, poor Thomas. It looks like another raised bed for you my friend!