Picking Rhubarb is great because it’s probably one of the first signs of the year that all of your hard work has paid off.
As I’ve said before, throughout the year rhubarb is one of those really low maintenance plants that offers a great return. It’s a great filler in cakes, crumbles and tarts.
I was lucky enough to learn from a young age that there’s a knack to picking Rhubarb so that you don’t end up damaging the plant when pulling out nice clean stems. .
With my particular rhubarb, which is called champagne, as a general rule of thumb, late March to late May is a good time to pick it. The crop is at its best and it’s not too bitter. I remember picking Rhubarb in the summer years ago and it was a huge disappointment – it was sour and tasteless.
How to pick rhubarb
Rhubarb stems grow in different directions, so it’s best to pull the rhuarb stem in the direction it’s growing in. If you don’t then you run the risk of snapping the stem which is not only messy, but what’s left in the crown can rot and damage the plant later on.
Now, it’s inevitable that the odd stalk will snap – it always happens with me at some point, so don’t worry too much, I guess the moral of the story is that you don’t want it happening too often.
When picking your stalk, get in as close to the center as possible, grabbing a stem as low you can – and then pull. They’ll be a natural give when you pull and a hollow crunching sound as you pull – but not a snap.
When you pull out a stem of rhubarb you should have a nice, clean but almost gooey end that’s a U shape. Lovely stuff!
Then once it’s picked you need to top and tail the stem. I like to cut the leaf about an inch or two from the base of the leaf and a couple of inches from base of the stalk so that I get as much as I can from the stalk. As a rule of thumb you want try and cut the stem at the point at which it starts to turn red.
I don’t like to be too severe when picking rhubarb as each time you pick it you’re giving more space, light, water and air to the rest of the crop – so I try and aim to pick around 3 or 4 stalks from each plant.
The remaining pieces I lay on the compost heap. I’ve read that sometime this isn’t ideal as the leaves are quite acidic, but in truth I’ve never noticed too much of a problem with doing this.
And that’s how you pick rhubarb! It’s easy-peasy lemon squeasy 🙂
I’ve got a few rhubarb recipes you can use, but I’m always interested to here what you do with yours. Be sure to let me know in the comments below.