Rules of Rhubarb Engagement

With our first harvest just weeks away I’m getting excited to see just how much fine fruit we can find! There are a couple rules of thumb when it comes to picking rhubarb that will help result in your best yield.  Rhubarb loves the early Spring cool temperatures and will do most of it’s producing in the months of May and June.  Once the Summer sun sets in and things start to heat up, rhubarb will slow it’s growth considerably. When deciding whether your rhubarb is ready to be harvested, don’t be fooled by the colour! In Manitoba, rhubarb can be all red, all green, or a mix of the two.  The key is to look for the size of the stalks, 20-40 cm. is best! Rhubarb can be gently pulled from the base, but can also be cut with a sharp knife if you find you’re pulling up roots.  Start with the larger, outer stalks and leave the smaller ones for the next harvest. It is important to leave 1/3 of the stalks so that your plant continues to grow over the course of the season. Be sure to discard or compost the green, leafy tops as they can be poisonous if eaten. (Your compost pile will be happy for the additions!) Store harvested rhubarb in a dry, cardboard box to help keep it fresh longer. Be sure not to add in any extra-ripe fruit or fruit that has been damaged as it can spoil the rest! Once your rhubarb plants starts to flower, that indicates it is nearing the end of it’s season. To help extend the growing season, trim off the flowers or rhubarb will become tough. A plant that seems to have fallen dormant over the Summer may still surprise you with fresh shoots come Fall, so don’t forget to check back in! If you find a good crop in your neighborhood, ask the owner whether they might be willing to donate a portion or drop off a GOT FRUIT? form found on www.fruitshare.ca.  

Happy Hunting!  

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