Thursday, February 16, 2012

Rhubarb, the pie plant

My girlfriend, Claudette, is an amazing cook. She is the one who got me hooked on rhubarb. She makes the most amazing pie with it and to this day, it's the only one I make. Rhubarb is the first plant in my garden that grows and produces something in the spring. It is a tough plant and grows really well where I live. When we drive around looking at crops, we often see these plants still flourishing on abandoned farms. One of our old neighbors told me to get a fresh cow pie and put it on top of the plant in the spring. Uh no :-)  My mom tells me that when she was a kid (she's 84 now) that they use to pick up dried cow pies in the summer and fall when the cows were out in the pasture and store them to use for fuel in the winter. Just a tid bit, I thought I'd pass on to you all! Back to rhubarb. Did you know that rhubarb is actually a perennial? Yup, it sure is. Once established, Rhubarb plants need a lot of room, mine are currently about 3 feet across just before I harvest the stalks. If you're starting a new plant, plant the roots with a crown bud about two inches below the surface of the soil. Besides weeding and watering, the only thing I do with rhubarb is fertilize it early in the spring all around the plant with well rotted manure. Don't put any manure on the crown bud as this will rot the plant. I don't even work it in. It grows nice and big stalks. The leaves are apparently poisonous, so be careful if you have children and pets. My dogs and cats have never touched my plants but just a word of caution just in case. I have an older plant that has mainly green stalks with a tinge of pink and then I have a second plant that has red stalks. The one with the red stalks is sweeter. I can't tell you the names of them because they were donations from friends. If the plants become too big, you can dig them up and divide the roots to share, I've never bothered and my plants are still fine. When you see the flower stalks growing, they look like a small cauliflower head, just break off the whole stalk and discard. Never cut the stalks you are picking, just grasp the stalk at the base and pull. My rhubarb plants get well watered around the plant when they are actively growing, but as the summer goes on and they become dormant because of the heat, I water them less. I make Rhubarb pie, cake and jelly. Sometimes my husband and kids just like rhubarb cooked up on the stove with a bit of water and sugar to taste and they eat it with ice cream. I will post the recipes later today as I'm off to work this morning. To freeze, I pick about 2/3 of the stalks at a time, discard the leaves, wash up the stalks, chop them and freeze in 1 cup packages.

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