Rhubarb, the Garden Peasant

FTLComm - Tisdale
April 30, 1999

Growing from a bulb like an Iris or a tulip the rhubarb plant is rather difficult categorise. It has long been used as a powerful flavour and at the same time is among the most dangerous plants you can find. The active chemicals in the rhubarb's leaves are definitely poisonous yet the stalks of the plant product the most remarkable tastes. There seems to be two basic varieties of the plant, those with rather bitter green stems and those with red to deep purple stems which are much sweeter.

In our garden the rhubarb will be the very first thing available for the table (the picture shows our little rhubarb plant at 9:00 this morning) and it will keep on producing until the snow flies. My wife makes remarkable pie with our rhubarb and my mother used to make it up as a canned fruit preserve sometimes combining it with saskatoons. People also stew up rhubarb and use it to make a cobbler type pudding and still others produce strongly flavoured sauces for desert toppings.

Most people treat rhubarb like a fruit because of its high sugar content but it really doesn't matter how we categorise it because it is a mineral rich food and totally simple to grown and harvest. If you don't have some in your garden get some roots from a friend. The underground development of a rhubarb plant is remarkable and after getting a bulb or two they can be planted in your garden and your work is done. Generations later will be able to go out and help themselves to the stems that will grow each year, often when little else grows in your garden. When you harvest the stalks leave the leaves right around the plant as they will decompose and return to the soil around the plant. Unless you have plans to replace your husband never use those leaves for anything but fertiliser for themselves.