We have long forgotten the garden crops and today we have remembered one that is not usually found in the Spanish diet and that we can introduce if we like. Rhubarb is a vegetable that is not difficult to grow and can be one of those vegetables for your first crops if you are not an expert horticulturist. The red petioles are the ones that most attract the attention of this crop.
WHAT SHOULD WE KNOW ABOUT RHUBARB?
It is a curious vegetable if you have never seen it. The leaves grow with long petioles (up to almost 1 meter at times) that are the ones that are consumed.
These petioles vary in their intensity of red depending on the temperatures to which the plant has been subjected during its development. Cold climates give the petioles more intense red. On the contrary, with high temperatures, it will be somewhat less red.
The part that is consumed is the petiole for a simple reason. The oxalic acid content in the leaves is very high and its consumption is not advisable in any way.
In the petiole it also has a significant but much lower concentration and nothing to worry about. Because of this, the sensation when eating it can be rough on the teeth, as happens with spinach.
It is a crop that can be grown as a perennial. It is rhizomatous and therefore it spends the winter thanks to the reserves of the rhizomes.
It is from the last frosts in the face of spring that the large leaves with the desired petioles will begin to develop.
Rhubarb leaves. Photography: Dieter Weber
RHUBARB GROW GUIDE
CLIMATOLOGY AND TEMPERATURES
It is one of the most versatile plants adapted to different climates, although we have already said that cold climates are those with which it presents intense reds.
Even so, the different varietal selections many of them seek to achieve intense reds, which is what draws the attention of this vegetable. This plant needs the cold of winter to stimulate growth in spring. It is what is known as vernalization.
For this reason, the rhizomes must be planted during the fall so that they pass the necessary cold of winter. As the rhizome remains underground, it can withstand freezing temperatures typical of Siberian cold.
When the petioles begin to develop, the frosts should subside although it develops well around 10ºC.
SOIL AND SUBSTRATE
It grows well in dry, well-drained and well-nourished soils . If it is necessary to deviate from this average, it is better that it is towards lighter or somewhat sandy soils.
What is bad are the clay and heavy. The pH can be somewhat acidic around 6.
Some recommendations to get the most out of your soil
WATER AND IRRIGATION NEEDS
The abundant risks overwhelm him. A regular frequency of watering that maintains constant soil moisture but without waterlogging is better .
Therefore, more frequency and less abundance in the irrigations is the ideal. Sometimes it is not possible but if you tend to do it better.
Rhubarb is a plant that needs watering and more during the development of the fleshy petioles of the leaves that we will later take advantage of.
Multiplication is easy. Simply with the division of rhizomes . Its plantation will be from September or October and when the temperatures are right it will begin to sprout again.
You can also germinate seeds but you have to do it during the summer to transplant in the fall.
GENERAL GROWING TIPS
The emission of flower stalks is detrimental to foliar development, which is what concerns the petioles. Therefore, all flower stalks must be removed to encourage leaf development.
The normal thing is that the culture can be maintained for about 4 or 5 years. There have been crops that have been around for more than 10 years. It all depends on the conditions and the care.
USES OF RHUBARB IN GASTRONOMY
It is curious but rhubarb petioles have been used and are used curiously in many desserts and pastries in central and northern Europe.
In Spain we have no tradition of this vegetable but it can give us more than one surprise. The strawberry and rhubarb jam is famous and a real delicacy and from here we encourage you to try it.