Another weird plant. Rhubarb stalks look like celery, but they are nothing like it. The stalks are edible, the leaves are poisonous. The roots last for years. The taste is wonderful! Rhubarb is also called the pie plant. My great aunt did. She loved rhubarb pie.
When we moved here ten years ago, in February, there was a large circle of blackened ground in the middle of the lawn on the south side of the house. We thought it had been a burn pile. But in March, leaves began to push out of the ground there. Eureka! Rhubarb. When, a couple of years later, we had to move the rhubarb, it took a man with a large machine to dig out the patch. We plopped huge chunks of rhubarb roots off to the side of the yard, and then broke up the roots, and replanted in a mountain of composted sod. Some of the roots were so large that they had to be moved by wheelbarrow. But they loved their new home. The sod mountain gradually sank into soft soil, and the rhubarb has survived with a vengeance.
Our neighbors say that the Norwegian fishermen who lived here used to clean their fish over the rhubarb patch. Thrifty. They didn’t have to buy fish fertilizer. Rhubarb loves fish fertilizer. I use the liquid, about a cup in a five gallon bucket of water, and drench the bed in February. Works every time. I would guess that our rhubarb originally came from Norway. A root or two sent on by relatives back home, or shared from a garden of a friend (who originally got hers from Norway.) Whatever. The internet shows different varieties. Local nurseries probably offer the type best for local weather conditions. I have no idea what variety I have. It’s not terribly red. I call it Norwegian Gold.
As it grows in the spring, cut out any flowers that form. Apparently they take energy from the rest of the plant. The leaves contain oxalic acid, so cut them off the stalk when you harvest. Pile them on the compost. Important: only eat the stalk! To harvest just grab a nice fat crisp stalk and pull hard away from the base. Leave a couple of stalks on the same root to provide food for the root.
Rhubarb is possibly an acquired taste. It is umm, different. Astringent, acidic, absolutely unique. Perfect paired with strawberries in pie. Excellent as jam. Even wine (more on that later.) Here is a really great recipe to use as your introduction to rhubarb. It’s not too rhubarby. Here’s the link. Try to use freshly grated nutmeg for that extra wow factor.
Rhubarb Pan Cake
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sour cream
- 4 cups chopped rhubarb
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- In large bowl, cream together butter or margarine and brown sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla.
- Sift or stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually stir in to butter mixture. Fold in sour cream and rhubarb. Spoon batter into greased 9 x 13 inch glass baking dish.
- Stir together white sugar and nutmeg; sprinkle over batter.
- Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 40 minutes, or until tester comes out clean.