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Rheum rhabarbarum

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 Natural habitat across mountains of Turkey and the lower Himalayas, through central China, into Siberia.

Chinese dry and powder the roots – this sold for more than twice the price of Opium in 1657 on the European spice routes.  It was used for regularity – a smal amount (2 grains) is a bowel binding tonic.  Large amount (15-30 grains) cures constipation.

Leaves contain high amounts of oxalic acid and can and have caused severe illness and death.

Likes open sunny space, and well rotted animal manure.

Three or four plants would be more than adequate for an average household.

Plant young crowns so knobbly shoots are just proud of the surface.

Do not pick the first year, limited picking the second year,  3rd year the plant should be well established.

Aim for bright coloured stems.  Pull and twist to remove stems at ground level.

If plant flowers remove flower stalk at gound lever so that plants energy goes to stems

Freezes very well.


1 cup of rhubarb is 26 calories

Mildly laxative in large qualities

A vegetable.  Part of the buckwheat family. (Polygonaceae).  A close relative to sorrel.

Reached Europe in the 14th C.  Traded along the sild route.  Originated in China, in rich deep sols at high altitude.  Drought tolerant but does not like heat.  Prefers well drained soil with lots of compost.

Below 24 C stems will be awesome, above that and the stems grow weak and spindly.  Above 32 C plant will become dormant until temp drops again.

Covering stalks with open ended box or tube for pale and tender stalks.

Can be grown from seed but takes longer than root division.  Two years to harvest.

Division 4-5 year old plant.  In autumn or spring.  ANy piece of rhizone with roots and one good eye ‘bud’ – use a spade to cut rhizome.

Plant in open – away from overhanging trees.

Drainage is important as susceptible to crown rot.

Allow plenty of space 60-120 cm between plants.  Dig and replant every 4-5 years to maintain vigour.

Harvest second year.  Harvest is generally spring and autumn.  Stalks should be firm.  Too late and they will become stringy.  Remove seed stalks as they appear

Do not cut stalts – snap off at ground level with a twisting motion.  Only harvest a third at a time.

Leaves contain 0.5% oxalic acid should never be eaten.

Frost biten stems may also contain oxalic acid

Can be added to compst where ozalic acid is broken down.

Rheum rhapontium

Rheum rhubarbarum

Rheum palmatum – Medicial Chinese also R. offanate (distinguished by size and texture.  Heavy veined leaves rougher to the touch.  Hollow jointed stems to 2.5 metres.  In favourable conditions can grow as fas as 7.5cm a day)

Forcing – After a couple of good frosts in winter place a pot or bucket over to exclude light over the crown.  Tender pink stems should be ready to harvest in approximately 4 weeks.

Rhubarb nees a couple of good frosts to trigger new growth.

Honey fungus/Crown rot – if either occur, cut out and destroy all infected parts of the plant.

Keeps in the frige 1-2 weeks, freezer 3 months.

Grow – Feb Oct.  Harvest Oct-May


Storing harvested [name]:

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