Rhubarb: the fruit that is really a vegetable
People either love or hate rhubarb. But if you’re among the fans of the plant that makes deliciously tart jams, pies and other delectables, you’ll be happy to learn it grows well in Colorado.Rhubarb is prepared like a fruit cooked in jams, pies, sauces and baked goods but the plant is actually a vegetable, because we eat the stem, not the fruit. In fact, it is one of the few vegetables that will grow year after year without annual planting. Rhubarb adapts well to most soils, as long as it is well-drained. It is always advantageous, though, to amend your soil with organic matter such as compost. Though you can start rhubarb by seed, it’s easier and more common to purchase a plant from your local nursery or obtain a transplant from a friend. Once mature, rhubarb is a fairly large plant often several feet in diameter so two or three plants should be plenty. Plant your rhubarb in a sunny location. It doesn’t grow well with reflected heat, so avoid planting it too close to your house or a south-facing wall, for example.Let the plant grow about two years before you begin to harvest it. Once it’s matured enough to harvest, make sure you cut back any flower or seed stalks. Harvest the thickest stalks first, giving the others room to grow. Cut the stalks at their base when you harvest, being sure not to remove more than a quarter of the plant at a time.Rhubarb is edible whether the stalks are red or green, but green stalks tend to taste bitter, so it’s best to wait until they’re red. The leaves are toxic, however, so be careful to avoid ingesting them.If you find your rhubarb stalks aren’t turning red, it could be the result of too much shade, too much heat, or soils that are too wet. Wait until the fall to transplant rhubarb to a better location. Most people use rhubarb to make pies, jams, jellies and baked goods like breads and muffins. But the tart vegetable is quite versatile. Look online and you’ll find a number of uses for it, including wine, soup, chutneys and cooked with meat entrees.
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