Many people know rhubarb from caramel or liqueur, both characterized by a bitter taste. These are actually products derived from the root of the plant, while rhubarb ribs they taste completely different.
Rhubarb is indeed a herbaceous perennial plant from which we obtain a vegetable with multiple uses in the kitchen, valuable especially for cakes and delicious jams and widely used in vegan recipes. The shores of rhubarb are little known in Italy but widely used in other European countries so they could be a great find for your garden.
Although rhubarb is not very common in Italy, it will not be difficult to find seeds or seedlings to start planting it. Among other things, it is one of the easiest vegetables to grow therefore also for the inexperienced it is pleasant to insert it in their own garden or possibly in pots, and is particularly suitable for organic cultivation.
Read Orto Da Coltivare’s guide to growing simple rhubarb below, from planting to harvesting, and you’ll find that keeping this remarkable plant in the garden is easier than saying. However, one must be careful not to eat rhubarb leaves. which contain oxalic acid and are toxic, on the other hand they can be used to obtain a natural pesticide, but I will also explain this later in the article.
the rhubarb plant
The plant Rhubarb ( rheum rhaponticum or rheum rhabarbarum of the Polygnacea family) is a multifunctional herbaceous plant that forms a large taproot , the secondary rooting apparatus departs from this rhizome, and on it are the shoots from which the ribs and leaves emerge. Widespread in the wild throughout Europe, including Italy and parts of Asia, wild rhubarb is as edible as any we can grow, selected for the best sized stalks. Rhubarb stalks are light green to bright red, but can also be white or yellowish depending on the variety, while the leaves are large and emerald green. The amount of oxalic acid in the leaves makes them inedible, while the ribs can be eaten without contraindications. In April, rum emits a floral landscape which rises like a plume then reveals an explosion of white flowers. The flower then gives way to the fruit small nuts that contain the seeds.
It is a beautiful plant, mainly due to the bright color of the stems and the large size of the flower, interesting to insert in cultivated plots and often also used for ornamental purposes and not only for the edibility of the ribs: therefore it does not disfigure in the garden.
From a cultural point of view, rhubarb is a versatile plant , which does not need to be sown every year and requires very little maintenance. It produces for a good time of the year, especially in areas with a temperate climate.
Chinese rhubarb. In addition to rum rhaponticum also Palmatum rum, his name is chinese rhubarb is a closely related herbaceous species, with similar food uses and the same method of cultivation.
The giant rhubarb. There is another plant called “giant rhubarb”, a well-deserved epithet, since it reaches 2 meters in height. Although aesthetically vaguely reminiscent of our rhubarb, the giant rhubarb actually has nothing to do botanically, it is properly called gunnera manicata Is gunnera tinctoria and is part of the Gunneraceae family.
Where to grow rhubarb
climatic requirements. the rhubarb plant he doesn’t like the heat , is not at all characteristic of northern Europe and can also be grown in mountain gardens, but it lives very well in the Italian climate. However, a moderate temperature allows a longer production period and therefore a larger harvest. In central and southern Italy, where it suffers the most from the hot summer, it can do better in the penumbra than in full sun. On the other hand, it withstands winter without any problem, being in vegetative stasis during the coldest months. when you see that the ribs and leaves deteriorate and dry up in the fall you should not despair: the root system remains alive in the soil, and in the spring vigorous shoots will emerge.
suitable ground. Rhubarb does not require much from the soil, although it likes organic matter and nitrogen. Before planting, it is good to prepare basic fertilization since it is a perennial plant, it is better to leave nutrients that can be absorbed even beyond the first year, so to prefer manure or compost instead of granulated dry manure, it is also very good to put mineral flours. Like many other horticultural plants, rhubarb does not like standing water. it must therefore be grown in draining soil.
The importance of drainage and treatment . Before sowing or transplanting this culture, it is advisable to shovel the garden plot well so that its rhizome can grow comfortably in a soft substrate. Water should drain easily because if it stagnates, creating soggy, muddy soil around the roots, it will promote rot, which will lead to the death of the plant. In soils that are particularly prone to compaction or, in any case, poorly drained, it is advisable to create raised beds with side drainage channels. You can also consider using sand to make the soil more draining.
Potted rhubarb is difficult to grow if you don’t have a lot of space: a very large container is needed to house its large primary root. For example, geotextile containers may be suitable. The container must also be equipped with a drain to prevent rotting of the root system.
However, it is not impossible to cultivate it on the balcony, although you will certainly not obtain results comparable to cultivation in the field and more consistency in fertilizing and watering is necessary. Very useful for fertilizing pot-grown rhubarb is periodic use of liquid fertilizer also of own production (macerated nettle and consolida).
reproduction of rhubarb
Rhubarb can reproduce in two ways : sowing (gamic multiplication) and division of the rhizome (agamic multiplication). The second method is undoubtedly the easiest to implement and also the fastest. After sowing or propagating it, it will be easy to plant it.
start with the seed . Rhubarb can be grown from seed, extract the seed into a jar at early March , then transplant it in mid-April or in May outdoors in the garden. If you start from seed, the plant will produce in the second or third year, so it takes a bit of patience compared to transplanting, which is quicker to harvest.
Transplant the seedling. If you buy a seedling or get it by planting it in the seedbed the best time for transplanting is usually mid-April or even May , it is not excluded that rhubarb can also tolerate other planting periods, as it is very hardy. After the transplant, do not forget to water regularly and in the first months of life to control weeds.
division of rhizomes
The best way to propagate rhubarb plants is to plant a and divide it into several parts : each piece can be buried and will give birth to a new plant. The important thing is to make sure that each portion of rhizome has at least one shoot . This can be done in early spring or before winter. If you have a rhubarb plant, this is certainly the best way to extend the harvest.
Distance between plants
Rhubarb is a very vigorous plant, which spreads and produces large leaves, which is why it is advisable to keep a good distance between the rhubarb plants, I recommend leaving it as a sixth planting two meters between one row and another and at least one meter between plants . In the allotment garden, on the other hand, you will not need more than two or three plants, unless you want to make rhubarb jam often! A single rhubarb plant produces many ribs. When growing in pots, of course, only one plant per container.
Growing rhubarb: work to do
rhubarb is a plant that does not require a lot of time from the grower and which produces a lot, even without having to devote much attention to it. Once planted there are very few operations to do to grow italian rhubarb in the garden.
Weeding in the rhubarb zone is easy, its large leaves grow quickly and provide shade by limiting weeds. If you then use padded the work of weeding becomes practically nil. Weeds must be taken care of especially in the first period of the life of rhubarb, when the seedlings are still small, once the plant has grown, it competes well. However, weeding the soil is always a good thing, as it breaks down the top crust and allows the soil to oxygenate.
green clover mulch
An interesting technique that combines the advantages of mulching with those of the synergy between crops is the bright green quilting it’s him plant dwarf clover to create a mulch mat around rhubarb plants. The small clover roots supply nitrogen to the soil and thus they enrich it with an element very useful for colds, at the same time they prevent the growth of weeds and help to retain water in the soil.