How and when to harvest rhubarb is a tricky notion that one should be very detailed about. Rhubarb is best picked during spring, and you’ll need a sharp knife or garden shears to cut the stem near the base of the plant.
Get ready to make all kinds of dishes and desserts after you learn the art of harvesting rhubarb.
- How To Know When You Must Harvest Rhubarb?
- How to Harvest Rhubarb After They Have Ripened?
How To Know When You Must Harvest Rhubarb?
To know when you must harvest rhubarb is after you have waited two years for them to be growing properly, and in addition to this, you would also know when you start to spot stems that are ripe and ready.
Rhubarb plants tend to be ready for harvest in the spring, usually between April and June. At this time, the stems are at their most tender and flavorful. If you wish to harvest rhubarb, it should be done two to three times per season, with about four to six weeks between each harvest.
Harvest only stems that are visibly thick and firm while leaving thin and spindly ones alone, so they can continue to grow bigger as the days pass.
– Waiting For Two Years
What homeowners should do is that they must aim to avoid harvesting rhubarb first year after planting. Harvesting them while they are still young may cause them damage, such as irregular growth. Instead, wait for the second or third year after planting before you even think of even harvesting, because they would be mature enough to have a proper yield.
The time will allow the plants to establish their root system and grow healthy plant parts. On the other hand, if you don’t harvest rhubarb frequently enough, the stalks can become woody and tough, which can make them less enjoyable to eat.
Also, under-harvesting can lead to several problems, such as reduced yield, decreased plant vigor, and the accumulation of plant debris. To avoid under-harvesting, it’s important to monitor the rhubarbs regularly and harvest the stalks as soon as they are ready. This can help ensure a consistent and plentiful yield and promote the plant’s overall health and vigor.
– Spot the Ripe Stems
Just because it’s springtime doesn’t mean you can harvest rhubarb stems indiscriminately, as in this case, you need to determine if they are ready before picking rhubarb stems. Ripe stems are usually at least 10 to 12 inches in length with an inch in diameter.
On the other hand, you would also easily spot the stems through their colors, as they can differ according to variety since some have pinkish or white stems even when ripe. Common rhubarb plants tend to have red stems, and deep red stems indicate ripeness.
Aside from the size and color of the stems, look for ones that that firm and sturdy. There should be no signs of wilting or shriveling, as these indicate immaturity, or possible pests and even diseases. Additionally, the stems should have leaves that are fully open and healthy-looking.
How to Harvest Rhubarb After They Have Ripened?
To harvest rhubarb after they have ripened, you must begin by preparing the tools, locating the stems, and cutting them. Avoid over-harvesting them; make sure you remove the leaves and risk the stems. Store the stems and make sure you properly dispose of the waste.
1. Prepare the Tools
Just like harvesting other fruiting plants and vegetables, you’ll need to use tools to avoid damaging your rhubarbs. First, get a sharp knife or a pair of sharp gardening shears. Check the blades to ensure that they are clean and sharp. Aside from these two tools, you need to wear protective gloves to help you avoid accidental cuts and wounds.
It’s equally important to be aware of safety concerns when harvesting fresh rhubarb. And that is because these leaves contain oxalic acid, which can harm your body if ingested in large quantities. Oxalic acid can easily bind with calcium present in the body and form kidney stones. It can also cause other health problems such as digestive issues and mineral deficiencies.
While the amount of oxalic acid in rhubarb is generally not enough to cause serious harm, it’s important to avoid eating large quantities of rhubarb leaves, as they contain higher concentrations of oxalic acid than the stalks. Wear gloves, wash your hands thoroughly after handling the leaves, and avoid eating them altogether.
2. Locate the Stems
A typical rhubarb grow pattern is having the stems come out from the ground. Since this is the case, you need to lift up the leaves to see the stems. Remember to pick rhubarb stems that are thick and mature while disregarding thin or spindly ones, and you should aim to locate these when you are harvesting the plant.
3. Cut the Stems
Now that you found the leaves that are ripe for picking bring out your knife or gardening shears. Look carefully to avoid damaging surrounding stems, especially if they are still immature, thin, or spindly. Once you are sure, make a clean, sharp, and angled cut on the ripe stem near the base of the plant.
You can safely harvest up to one-third of the plant’s stems at a time. This will avoid stressing the plant and ensure continued growth and production. For established rhubarb plants, you can usually harvest up to half of the stalks at one time.
4. Avoid Over-harvesting
Allow a few stems on the plant to continue growing. The ones that you should leave alone are the immature stems, which are typically thin and spindly. These will be enough to help the plant continue to flourish.
Avoid over-harvesting since this can weaken the plant and reduce its productivity in the long run. To elaborate the notion further, it’s still important not to overdo it because this may weaken the vegetation, and it will no longer encourage growth as much.
5. Remove the Leaves
With the stems in hand, you must now aim to remove the leaves of the plant. The reason why you should do this is that the leaves are poisonous and should not be consumed. They should also not be added to your compost pile because of the toxins that they have.
Instead, discard the leaves safely but again alternatively, you can use the leaves as an ingredient for a natural insect repellent for your garden.
6. Rinse the Rhubarb Stems
With the leaves removed, it’s time to rinse the stems, this is an important step that you should do, because it will remove any dirt or debris that may have been hiding in the folds of the stems. At this point, you can also trim the ends of the stems if you notice any that are dry or damaged.
7. Use or Store the Rhubarb Stems
Use the harvested and cleaned rhubarb stems to make use of them with different culinary styles of cooking these stems. If you have excess stems or do not plan to use them right away, you can store them in the refrigerator.
As you do so, they will last up to a week. Simply wrap the stems in damp paper towels and keep them in a plastic bag to keep them fresh until you’re ready to use them.
8. Proper Disposal of The Waste
After harvesting, you will have leftover plant material, such as leaves and woody stalks, that need to be disposed of properly. These plant parts should not be left out in the garden, where they can be ingested by curious pets and animals, and this way, the oxalic acid present in the leaves can easily harm those that consume them.
What you can do instead is to dispose of them properly. Getting rid of rhubarb waste correctly is important to prevent contamination of the soil or water sources, and to minimize potential health hazards to you, your pets, and the local wildlife.
Planting rhubarb is great because they are so delicious in many dishes and desserts. Let’s quickly recap how and when to harvest these delectable stems:
- Harvest only large, thick, and sturdy stems.
- Avoid over-harvesting to allow the plants to grow more stems for the next season, as this would lead to rhubarb growing problems.
- While overharvesting remains the top concern, there are others that can present challenges to many homeowners, such as under-harvesting, pesticide residues, safety concerns, and proper disposal.
- Discard the poisonous leaves safely while rinsing and storing the stems for use.
Now that you can safely harvest rhubarb stems, you will be cultivating perfectly grown vegetation, so happy gardening.
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