How to Harvest Rhubarb - Backyard Boss
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How to Harvest Rhubarb

The list of delectable treats is never ending when it comes to using fresh rhubarb from the garden!

If you have taken the time to plant, grow, and care for a rhubarb plant, you are probably wondering when it is ready for use. How do you tell when it is ripe, and how do you harvest it? The great news is that rhubarb is extremely easy to grow and even easier to harvest! The most important thing to remember is that not all rhubarb plants are edible. The leaves are poisonous, and you should never eat them!

Want to learn how to harvest the oh-so-wonderful vegetable that is rhubarb? Here is what you need to know!

Materials Required

Harvesting rhubarb is not a complicated task if you are well prepared in advance. Find below a list of a few pieces of equipment that you will be needed:

  • Gardening gloves
  • Basket or container for collection
  • Gardening attire or clothing

Step One – Know Your Plant’s Age

birds eye view of a rhubarb plant in the garden
Image credits: Karolina Grabowska via Pixabay

Before you rush out and start hungrily eyeing your rhubarb, you need to know how old your plant is. If your rhubarb plant is brand new or a year old, do not harvest it for the time being. 

It takes about two years for your plant to establish a strong root system (similar to asparagus!). Harvesting too early could stunt growth and production for the future or even cause your plant to struggle. If you know your plant is three years or older, carry on reading!

Step Two – Determine if Your Rhubarb is Ready

multiple rhubarb plants with red stalks in a garden
Image credits: Caleb Rankin via Unsplash

Many gardeners new to growing rhubarb believe rhubarb is only ready for harvest if the stalks are bright red. This is a myth! Color does not identify if the rhubarb is ripe or not. Some rhubarb varieties are pink when ripe, while others remain green.

You can tell if your plant is ready for harvest by the size of the stalks. If they are between 12-18 inches long, they are ready to be picked. Harvest your rhubarb early in the growing season, gathering it in the spring or early summer (May to July).

Step Three – Pull Your Rhubarb

woman in dress holding freshly harvested rhubarb, pulled from the ground
Image credits: Daiga Ellaby via Unsplash

Some gardeners prefer to cut ripe rhubarb stalks, but many gardeners insist on the pulling method. Cutting rhubarb often leaves a part of the stalk behind that is unusable, making it prone to rot or disease. Instead, use the pulling method, which extracts more of the stalk than cutting it, and allows your plant to recover more quickly.

In this approach, grab the base of the rhubarb stalk close to the ground. Then, using a gentle twisting and pulling motion, pull up the entire stalk from the plant. Voila! You have just harvested your rhubarb!

Step Four – Know How Much to Take

rhubarb plant with bright green leaves and red stalks
Image credits: kaori nohara via Unsplash

It is tempting to want to harvest all of the ripe stalks, but it is important to harvest thoughtfully. If too much is taken, it will harm the plant and even reduce the amount of later production.

When you harvest rhubarb stalks from your plant, take only a third of the plant. Leaving stalks behind encourages the rhubarb plant to keep growing and producing, allowing the plant to store energy for the next growing season.

Step Five – Use or Save Your Rhubarb

image of someone cutting up fresh rhubarb stalks with a knife
Image credits: Maximilian Zahn via Unsplash

When storing your freshly harvested rhubarb, consider when you plan to use it.

If you want to use the rhubarb immediately, remove the leaves before chopping them up. If you do not use the rhubarb right away, store the stalks in your fridge (leaving only a small part of the leaf attached to preserve freshness).

Rhubarb also does well in the freezer! Remove the leaves and chop up your rhubarb into small pieces, freezing it in a resealable container or bag.

Wasn’t That Simple!

Rhubarb is an amazing perennial garden vegetable that is easy to grow and harvest!

Harvest your rhubarb only if your plant is three years or older. If your plant is younger, the root system is not yet fully established. 

Start pulling up rhubarb stalks early in the growing season, when the stalks reach about 12-18 inches. The color of the stalk does not matter as the color and shade differ depending on your rhubarb variety. 

To remove the ripe stalks from your plant, grab the base, twist, and pull! Rid of the leaves (they are poisonous!) and use it right away or store your rhubarb for later! Remember to only harvest a third of your plant to promote growth for the following year.

If this article was helpful for you, be sure to leave a comment down below! Happy Gardening!