Aside from asparagus, rhubarb is probably one of the most easily recognizable perennials on the homestead. This hardy garden standout is easily propagated, and has many uses for us on the Traditional Catholic Homestead.
Propagating rhubarb is most commonly done through root division or crown cuttings. Less frequent is propagation through seed. I’ve planted both purchased crowns and splits from a friend. This method is easy and reliable… you know exactly what you are getting, a clone of the mother plant. Crowns should be separated from the mother plant periodically to ensure plant vitality. Growing rhubarb from seed can be a little more risky as many varieties now days are hybrids so you don’t know if you will end up with often times. I grew a batch of rhubarb from seed this season, and so far I’m pretty happy with the results. They are tiny versions of a full sized rhubarb, and have proven to be very hardy enduring marauding mice, and marble sized hail. Seed germination rates were in the 90%+ range as well. Cultivation is pretty simple as well. The plants prefer rich soil, plenty of nitrogen and organic matter, and thrive in cooler areas.
Uses range from the classic pie filling, either straight or mixed with strawberries. I like to plant rhubarb along with new trees. The large leaves shade the soil holding moisture in the root zone of the tree, and helping to keep grass at bay. Rhubarb is also a fine plant for chop and drop mulching by virtue of the incredible vegetative growth, especially in a mature plant. I’ve planted a dozen or so rhubarb crowns specifically for this purpose.
Most rhubarb is hardy to at least USDA zone 3 and generally has a useful life of 15 or more years. The edible portion of the plant is the meaty stalk, along with the flower buds. The leaves should not be eaten because of the high levels of oxalic acid. The stalks contain a bit as well so it would behoove you to not eat rhubarb on a daily basis. Large amounts of sugar are generally called for in most recipes to alleviate the bitterness inherent in the plant. Rhubarb is high in Magnesium, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Calcium, Potassium and Manganese.
With so many great uses and benefits it’s no wonder Rhubarb is so widely cultivated. Rhubarb another Homestead Hero!
Resources: Rhubarb Victoria D34101 (Red) 50 Heirloom Seeds by David’s Garden Seeds (grow your own!)