This week we take a look at plant many may be familiar with ~ Rheum rhabarbarum (Common Rhubarb). Rhubarb is a herbaceous perennial and very easy to identify when in leaf with its huge leaves and reddish leaf stalks. Flowering in summer, rhubarb can easily grow over 1.5 metres in height and spread, and even larger depending on the species. Though you may be aware that the stalks are edible, let’s take a look at what else rhubarb has to offer.
Cultivation & Care
Though rhubarb prefers full sun it will tolerate light shade, it’s large leaves actually make it a great ground cover plant as it blocks the light from weeds. As for soil, rhubarb is tolerant of most soils, so long as they are close to neutral pH (6.1 – 7.0), medium moisture is preferred.
To prolong the production of leaves, be sure to remove the flower stalks when they start to form. When harvesting, never take more than a third of the stalks as this can distress the plant. Also, be sure to harvest the mature stalks first then harvest the younger ones as they reach maturity weeks later.
Compassionate Roots can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally and when in doubt about eating a plant you have not eaten before.
- Leaf stalks ~ Can be eaten raw or cooked. Very tart in flavour.
- Flower buds ~ These can be cooked and have a similar texture to cauliflower, with a tarty twist.
- Eat in moderation as rhubarb contains high amounts of oxalic acid, which can inhibit calcium absorption. So long as you aren’t consuming large amounts of rhubarb on a daily basis, you should be fine.
- Biomass ~ The leaves accumulate a large amount of nutrients, which makes them great for adding to compost heaps and bins.
- Pioneer species ~ Another great plant that improves an area ready for other species of plants to settle in later.
- Dye plant ~ The leaves, stalks, and roots of some species can be used to produce yellow and red dyes.
- Dynamic accumulator ~ Rhubarb is great at mining for minerals deep in the soil and storing them in the leaves for later use either as a mulch or added to composting areas.