Rhubarb is a seasonal vegetable. Due to the increasing oxalic acid content, many people are uncertain how long the stalks can be harvested.
Rhubarb ( Rheum rhabarbarum ) is mainly on the menu in spring and early summer – then it is traditionally rhubarb season and therefore also harvest time. In this article, we will tell you the best way to harvest rhubarb, when is the ideal harvest time, and what else you should consider when consuming rhubarb. There are some myths about the right time to harvest rhubarb. We have therefore put together our best tips for you below.
Rhubarb harvest time
The rhubarb is generally only harvested in the second year after planting. The harvest time then begins from the second year in April and lasts until St. John’s Day (June 24th). You should then no longer harvest your rhubarb – for two reasons: on the one hand, to allow the plant to rest and recover, and on the other hand, because of the increase in the oxalic acid content.
Ripe rhubarb stalks can be recognized by the fact that the leaf tissue between the ribs has stretched and the whole leaf is no longer corrugated and crumpled, but looks wide and flat and has fully unfolded.
Note: People who suffer from iron deficiency should not eat foods containing rhubarb with or immediately after other meals. People with gout, rheumatism, arthritis, or kidney disease should generally be reluctant to consume rhubarb, as it is one of the foods containing oxalic acid (this also applies to spinach, beetroot, Swiss chard, etc.).
Tip: By forcing and bleaching the rhubarb, the harvest time can be brought forward. You can find out exactly how this works here in our special article.
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Harvest rhubarb the right way
Carefully twist the rhubarb stalks out as far as possible at the base. You should make sure that you do not cut off any parts of the rhizome. Cutting off the stalks is not recommended, as diseases can more easily get into the plant through the interfaces or it can rot. The young buds in the leaf axils are also more easily injured by deep cutting than by twisting them out. After unscrewing it, it is important to remove the leaves as well, because these and the rhizome are slightly poisonous and inedible. In general, you should only remove as many stems from the plant at one time as you need.
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So the plant still has enough leaves to continue photosynthesis and thus energy for further growth. This is also important because you will probably want to keep the plant in the garden for a few more years. You can harvest around 6 to 8 kg of rhubarb from a fully grown rhubarb plant one square meter in diameter.
Harvesting rhubarb summary:
- Carefully unscrew the rhubarb stalks
- Remove leaves as they are poisonous
- Harvest only as much as you need at the moment
- Ideal harvest time between April and the end of June
Tip: The leaves of the rhubarb contain active ingredients with which you can treat stem wounds on fruit trees as well as aphid infestations and prevent fungal diseases. An extract, as a vegetable stock or a whole leaf that is rubbed on wounds, quickly unfolds the antibiotic effect of tannins, oxalic acid, and anthraquinones.
Now that you have harvested your rhubarb, there are some ways to preserve it. Here we share with you how to freeze and boil down rhubarb.