Editor's note: The recipe that Matt links below is one of the most addictive creations I've ever encountered. Matt is an enthusiastic home beermaker, hop grower, and more. We welcome him on with this first post.
By Matt Arlauckas
So, I bet you only thought of rhubarb as a spring-time treat, eh? Thanks to a warm and humid summer here in Western New York, and a bit of care and tending, I’m still harvesting good stalks from our backyard beds.
I grew up with rhubarb, grown mostly in my grandfather’s urban garden in Rochester. Every time we would visit, he made sure we had enough for at least a few pies. I can’t remember how many plants he tended, but I do remember how there seemed to be a never-ending harvest.
A great resource for everything rhubarb and rhubarb-related is the Rhubarb Compendium (http://www.rhubarbinfo.com/). The website has an amazing amount of content, from growing and tending, to propagating and preparing. This has been the main source of information since our own beds went in.
Want to start growing your own? Rhubarb is a rhizome, so my best advice is to find a friend with a large plant, and ask for part of it. Sure you could buy rhubarb rhizomes at a garden center, or check with a vendor at your local farmers’ market. They might be willing to sell you a plant or two. Most friends would be happy to give you part of their plants, especially as rhubarb should be divided from time to time. We were lucky to have such a friend soon after we moved into our home, and have since divided the plants a few times.
Transplant it into a bed of loose, loamy soil, and leave it. It’ll take care of itself. Rhubarb is pretty drought-resistant, and really doesn’t require extra watering.
The toughest step to growing rhubarb is waiting. It’s going to take several months before you should harvest any stalks. The plants need this time to develop their root system. Just let the leaves grow for now, but be sure to pluck off any leaves/stalks that start to yellow and flop over. Generally, it’s going to take a season and a good winter-over before it should be harvested. It’s worth the wait!
Harvesting is easy. Some like to cut the stalks close to the ground, but I find that grasping the stalk low and giving a quick twist works best. Trim off the ends, including the leaves (yup, those are poisonous – but safe for your compost pile), and that’s it.
Now, what fun is just growing the stuff…
Here’s a really quick and easy recipe to enjoy all your hard work. It’s a variation on the classic rhubarb pie my mom still makes.