Rhubarb, Rhubarb everywhere I look but can you harvest and eat it after midsummer?

Debate: Can rhubarb be pulled and eaten after Midsummers Eve … Yes or No

Here in the walled garden there are several patches of rhubarb.  It grows so well I am easily able to supply neighbours and friends with as much as they can carry away with them to make crumbles, jam and chutney with.  Most of them bring some back after it has been processed. My favourite is rhubarb and ginger jam (hint, hint).  The rhubarb cupcakes where excellent last month too (better keep in there too).  The rhubarb also keeps us supplied with ‘fruit’ until the orchard starts producing cherries, plums, greengages, apples and pears.

There are two really big rhubarb (giant) patches and  two patches of some smaller stuff (wee).  I assume that they must be different varieties but as I did not plant them I do not know for sure.  It may be due to the growing conditions in different parts of the garden.

The original giant rhubarb patch

We have transplanted some of the giant rhubarb to another site and it took really well and grows just as big as it did on the original site which is still producing loads of rhubarb too.

Newest giant rhubarb patch planted 3 years ago

The wee rhubarb

The wee rhubarb

My significant other forced a patch of the wee rhubarb this year by putting a bin over it…. lovely early rhubarb was the result.

The wee rhubarb versus the Giant Rhubarb

I placed a pair of secateurs between the two sizes of rhubard to give and idea of scale.   As you can see the giant stuff is a wider than the secateurs.

Several of the regular visitors to our garden have told me that rhubarb should not be harvested after midsummer.  The reasons given to me on more than one occasion are these: – ‘That the rhubarb needs to rest’ or ‘it needs its energy to flower or it will die’.  Other people seem to have different ideas.   A local woman of great age (nearly 90) said that rhubarb jam was best made at the end of the season about the end of August.  The local flower show has rhubarb as one of its categories and that Flower Show does not take place till mid August.  (One of the organisers has asked me to exhibit at it this year and she also said that my rhubarb was beautiful, succulent and well-flavoured.  I think I will enter it into the giant vegetable category too).

So the question remains, should I or should I not still be harvesting rhubarb now since midsummer was a couple of days ago.  I pulled some again today and made rhubarb crumble with it.  The wee one said I should photograph it and put it on my blog but I forgot and it is half eaten now…… oops. (Yummy).

Anyway the pressure is mounting from those who think it should not be harvested after midsummer (as they are friends of mine they shall remain nameless).  There is still a ton of it out there.  So should I run out there and pull it all and freeze or just keep harvesting it fresh?  So to solve my dilemma I googled online and looked through my gardening books.

The Guardian newspaper has an article which states rhubarb can be field grown from April to September   http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/jan/27/seasonal-food-rhubarb

The Allotment Book says to use excess rhubarb as a barrier against rabbits because they detest it.  I have taken this advice and planted my new vegetable patch right next to the rhubarb to use as biological pest control  (but the Jury is out on that one at the moment, as I am sure I have seen baby rabbits running away to hide in among my giant rhubarb).

Oh I forgot to say…. I have found the ultimate book for advice on Fruit and Veg in Scotland… Yipee.  It was only published last month and it is called wait for it….  Fruit and Vegetables for Scotland (What to grow and how to grow it) by Kenneth Cox and Caroline Beaton.  http://www.glendoick.com/index.php?page=fruitandveg    On the subject of rhubarb it states as follows quote ‘After Midsummer, the oxalic acid builds up in the thicker stems making them inedible.  You may be able to continue picking thinner younger stems. Cut flowering stems off if you want to prolong the crop, as this helps young stem production.’   Which is, guess what?  Exactly what I have been doing for the past four years.

The upshot of all my research is that I now have a scientifically based riposte to give to all the naysayers on the subject of harvesting rhubarb after midsummer.   Sorted.


About lejardineduroyaume

The property has a walled garden and an orchard containing 50 fruit trees which date back to the 15th Century. These fairly mature trees need to be replaced by grafting scions onto root stock to create young trees. I would also like to get more from my garden by growing my own vegetables, salads and herbs. I would also like help my significant other to re-establish a physic garden on this site.
This entry was posted in Garden, Heritage plants and Fruit Trees, Walled garden and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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