In light of this weekend celebrating Canada’s birthday, let’s put the spotlight on a well known plant that’s been here so long, it can be called a ‘classic’ – Rhubarb.
Rhubarb, its Latin name “Rheum”, is not native to Canada, but made its appearance in the late 1700s, brought over in seed form with Europeans settling in Canada. Prior to that, records show that Rhubarb came to Europe from China. It thrives in cool climates and actually, heat slows its growth. It is a drought tolerant, overall tough plant that can withstand tremendous amounts of abuse.
Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable that has nutritional benefits, making sense that those settling here would want to include it in their pantry. The stalks are high in vitamin C, dietary fiber & Vitamin C and it’s low fat – 1 cup of rhubarb boasts a measly 26 calories!
Due to high levels of oxalic acid, remember that the leaves are toxic to humans.
Care & Planting:
- Rhubarb will grow in pretty much any type of soil but thrives well drained, rich soil – it will rot if the soil is too wet
- Plant in full sun
- Plant the crown1-2 inches below soil
- Don’t harvest the 1st year after planting so the roots can get established
- When you do harvest, always leave at least 2 stalks to provide nutrients to the roots
- Remove flower stalks so the plant’s energy will go into producing stalks
- Every 4-5 years, rhubarb tends to get spindly, so thin them out
- Can use a slow release fertilizer 5-10-10 applied once yearly. Rhubarb is not a heavy feeder.
- Can be used as a cleaner
- Insecticide: cabbage caterpillars, aphids, peach & cherry slugs
- Natural hair coloring
For more information on rhubarb, be sure to check out the website, “The Rhubarb Compendium”, they have a lovely recipe index as well.
Sources: rhubarbinfo.com, almanac.com