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Landscaping & Nursery Information for Home Gardeners

RHUBARB

Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable whose leaf stalks (technically "petioles") are cut and used in pies, jams, jellies, sauces and juice.

The blade or green leaves of the plant contain oxalic acid crystals which can cause serious problems when eaten. Crystals can cause the tongue and throat to swell, preventing breathing. Therefore, the leaves should be removed before using.

Rhubarb can be eaten after being hit by a frost or freeze PROVIDED the plant/stalks haven't wilted. If the stems appear soft and mushy, do not eat.

Rhubarb plants will occasionally send up flowers and seed stalks in the middle of the plants. The flowers and seed stalks can occur due to winter's chilling conditions. Stalks can also occur due to natural maturity of the plants.

Flower and seed stalks reduce the vigor of the plant. Energy is funneled into the stalks instead of new growth. Therefore, flower and seed stalks should be cut out as soon as they start forming. However, the plant may still continue to produce the flower stalks. Keep cutting.

Plants do NOT become poisonous after flowering starts. Leaf stalks can still be cut and used.
 

RHUBARB - FROST DAMAGE

Rhubarb hit by a frost or freeze can still be eaten PROVIDED the plant/stalks are still firm and upright.

Leaf injury may be noticeable with some brown or black discoloration on the edges. Severe cold injury may cause the oxalic acid crystals in the leaves to migrate to the stalks when poisoning problems can occur.

If in doubt concerning the safety of eating the stalks, DON'T. Cut those stalks off and compost. Allow new stalks to develop before eating.
 

RHUBARB - SEED STALKS

Rhubarb plants will occasionally send up flowers and seed stalks in the middle of the plants. The flowers and seed stalks can occur due to winter's chilling conditions. Stalks can also occur due to natural maturity of the plants.

Flower and seed stalks reduce the vigor of the plant. Energy is funneled into the stalks instead of new growth. Therefore, flower and seed stalks should be cut out as soon as they start forming. However, the plant may still continue to produce the flower stalks. Keep cutting.

Plants do NOT become poisonous after flowering starts. Leaf stalks can still be cut and used.

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Rhubarb may be readily forced a month earlier than the regular season and without digging up or injuring the crowns as follows: 

1 - Cover well established strong crowns with large drain or sewer tiles  standing bell-end down and cover the tile tops with  larger inverted flower pots that fit down an inch or so  over them. 

2 - Pile and pack fresh horse manure around  the tiles 18" to 24'? wide and 12" or more deep. 

3 - When stalks are to be pulled thrust the arm down inside the tile and break the stems close to the ground  without lifting the tile or shifting it. 

4 - When unforced crowns near-by have produced their first stalks  remove the tile, shake out and remove the straw and  lightly fork the -fine manure into the surface 3" or 4"  of soil. 

5 - Choose different crowns to force each year.  Tiles are better than boxes and barrels because they  retain heat longer and more evenly, are usable year  after year and the stalks may be removed without disturbing the manure and thus impairing its heating  power. 

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