By Joseph Parish
Rhubarb is one of those interesting plants which you do not generally chance upon a lot of information on. You will certainly encounter difficulty locating it in your local supermarket. I would like to take you on a gardening journey from growing your own rhubarb to harvesting it and finally to creating some tasty Rhubarb – Lime jelly.
In most parts of America you would not encounter any problems growing this perennial vegetable. It is well worth your efforts to cultivate it in the home garden as it is readily enjoyed in jellies, pies and sauces. Rhubarb is usually planted off by itself at the far end of your family garden and is best left alone. It will be productive for at least five years. Six plants will produce sufficient rhubarb to satisfy a family of four with possibly a little left over for the neighbor.
Plant your rhubarb in the early spring while your plant roots are still in their dormant stage. Use plants or divisions as seeds are extremely difficult to grow in most places other then the deep southern portion of the United States.
The crown bud of the plant should be about 2 inches below the soil with 36 inches spacing between each root planted. Rhubarb rows should be approximately 3 feet apart. Make certain that draining is good in the area where you intend to plant the rhubarb as they do not like wet feet. Prior to planting your roots work the soil well with compost to increase the rhubarbs production.
If you already have several rhubarb plants you can dig up the roots and divide them to make additional plants. Simply cut the root into four sections. Ensure that each of these sections has at least a single strong bud. This process should be accomplished at least every five years to ensure healthy and vigorous plants. Plants older then five years tend to become very crowded and their production decreases drastically. Use only your healthiest plants for this spring thinning and discard the rest.
Maintain the rhubarb area free of weeds inspecting it on a weekly basis. Apply fertilizer generously at the start of the growing season and continue to side dress the plants as the year rolls on. Irrigate the crop during periods of dryness and do not permit it to dry out excessively.
Since the newly established plants need abundant foliage to create a strong root system do not attempt to harvest any plants during the first season. During the second season you may harvest the stalks for one or two weeks, but after that you can safely harvest for the full eight to ten weeks.
To harvest the plants pull the plants stalks and proceed to trim the leaf blades from each. Do not use the leaf blades as they contain oxalic acid. Remove only 1/3rd of the leaves so the plant will remain healthy and continue to produce.
Should your plant develop seed stalks and flowers quickly remove and discard them. The petioles or leafstalks should be of high quality with bright color, tenderness and flavor. The stalk should be thick and crisp when you break it off.
The major pest for your new rhubarbs will be the Rhubarb curculio which is a beetle which bores holes into the stalks and roots of your plants. Should you encounter badly infected plants with a vast number of beetle eggs simply burn them in July.
And now for the fun part. You have already grown your rhubarb so now let’s make some tasty Rhubarb Lime Jelly.
You will need enough Rhubarb stalks to create five cups of juice
2 1/2 cups sugar
5 Tbsp of lime juice
5 tsp of Pomona pectin
5 tsp of calcium water
Wash your rhubarb stalks well and cut them into small chunks. Puree these chunks in a food processor using a cheesecloth for extracting your five cups of juice. Mix the rhubarb and lime juice with the calcium water in a pot. Mix the pectin with the sugar in a bowl. Bring the mixture in the pot to a boil and then add the sugar/pectin to it bringing it once again to a boil. Remove the pot from the heat and then ladle the mixture into pre-sterilized jars making certain to leave a 1/4" headspace. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for a period of 10 minutes. Be certain to adjust your time according to your altitude.
Your family is certain to enjoy this treat.
Copyright @2008 Joseph Parish